Tags: NKorea | SAfrica | cup | preparation

N. Korea Helps S. Africa in Cup Prep

Monday, 15 Mar 2010 08:56 PM

SEOUL — North Korea has sent around 1,000 workers to South Africa to help build or renovate stadiums hosting the upcoming World Cup football tournament, South Korean media reports said Monday.

The sanctions-hit state has reportedly sent the workers ahead of the June opening of the event, in which its own football team will participate, in an apparent attempt to earn much-needed hard currency, the JoongAng Daily newspaper said.

However a World Cup co-ordinator in South Africa and the project manager on one of the 10 host stadiums denied the report.

JoongAng Daily said the North Koreans were working at four to five stadiums, including Soccer City in Johannesburg, where the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the final will be staged.

"The North's government will likely demand loyalty from those workers and collect their wages to add to their foreign currency reserve," a Seoul government official told the paper.

But the manager of the Soccer City renovation project said the report was untrue.

"One thing for sure is we've never had any Koreans, North or South, on Soccer City," said Mike Moody of construction firm Grinaker-LTA.

"To the best of my knowledge, no one's employed any Koreans anywhere," Moody told AFP.

Ndavhe Ramakuela, World Cup co-ordinator for the city of Polokwane, also said no North Koreans were involved in construction there.

"I've been on site a thousand times and I didn't spot any Koreans," Ramakuela told AFP.

World Cup co-ordinators in the other cities where new stadiums have been built did not immediately return AFP's requests for comment.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency carried a report similar to JoongAng Daily's.

"It appears to be related to the efforts North Korea is increasingly making to earn foreign currency," a source told the agency.

North Korea's economic difficulties have deepened since it went ahead with a second nuclear test last May and triggered tougher UN sanctions, which banned lucrative weapons exports.

A bungled currency revaluation last November is widely reported to have worsened food shortages and fuelled inflation.

The reports did not say how much the South African government, which has set aside 12 billion rand (around 1.6 billion dollars) to prepare 10 World Cup stadiums, was paying the North Koreans.

In Senegal, North Korean workers are helping to build a 160-foot, 22-million dollar "African Renaissance Monument."

Outside Africa the North has up to 30,000 workers in China, Russia and some Middle Eastern countries, according to JoongAng.

North Korea's football team has qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1966, when it reached the quarter-finals in England. South Korea will also take part in the tournament.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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SEOUL — North Korea has sent around 1,000 workers to South Africa to help build or renovate stadiums hosting the upcoming World Cup football tournament, South Korean media reports said Monday.
NKorea,SAfrica,cup,preparation
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2010-56-15
 
 

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