Cultural Engagement

The Heroes Return

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Return of the players who created the greatest shock in World Cup history

In 2002, Koryo Tours and VMS productions organized the return of the North Korean national football team of 1966 to the UK, where they had last visited when they took part in the 8th World Cup – Due to their achievements at the tournament the players are seen as ‘revolutionary heroes’ in North Korea and for the DPRK Government to allow them to return to the UK was wonderful and the event was the most significant cultural exchange between DPRK and Europe. At the 2002 World Cup, FIFA had failed to get Pak Do Ik (the most famous of the bunch) to the opening ceremony and the team has not been seen together since 1966 - in fact for 36 years the rumours had led us to believe we would never find more than one of the 1966 World Cup squad let alone get the eight back to Middleborough, scene of their triumph over the mighty Italians in the greatest shock in World Cup history.


‘Pak Do Ik looked in fine shape as he wandered through Westminster yesterday, stopping in front of a portrait of Tony Benn to ask if he had ever been mayor of Middleborough. And he was diplomacy itself, revealing that he had cheered for the old enemy, South Korea, all the way to the semi-final of this years World Cup. “They brought pride to our whole nation” he said.’ The Guardian, October 2002

‘Rapprochement on the field of sport is set against a very different political backdrop…President Bush has declared that North Korea is part of the “axis of evil”. None of this makes sense when you meet Pak Do Ik or Ri Chan Myong or any of the remaining magnificent seven. But of course it doesn’t. And it certainly won’t make sense on Saturday which is the culmination, Middleborough versus Leeds United and a walk-on at the Riverside’. The Times, October 2002

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