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SBD Global/October 31, 2012/Finance

A Look Inside North Korean-Made Football Boots And A Plea From Workers For Messi To Try Them

An unusual "venture that marries South Korean money with North Korean labour in the Chinese city of Dandong aims to make its mark" on the world football scene, according to Ju-min Park of REUTERS. At a temporary factory, "in a village on the edge of a bustling city that serves as a bridge between China and impoverished, isolated North Korea," 20 North Koreans hand sew football boots and "dream of taking on the world." The factory, "overseen by managers sporting badges showing North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung, has sold almost 10,000 pairs of boots at $100 a piece" since it started full-scale operations in July, half of them to South Korea. North Korea itself "gets 100 pairs of boots a month from the factory as its share of payment, rather than being paid in cash." Veteran shoemaker Chung Nam-chul said, "Boots can be made by machines, but hand-sewn ones can be made to match individual preferences and they're more comfortable." Chung added, "We play soccer in our boots to test them and pick good ones." Chung and his fellow workers from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, "are members of the April 25 Sports Club," one of the most successful North Korean football league teams, which is run by the Korean People's Army, the North's armed forces. As "in the old days in communist eastern Europe," football teams in North Korea "tend to be part of the state apparatus with businesses attached to them." The small boot factory "will not make much of a difference" to North Korea's economy, but that "doesn't stop its workers from dreaming big." North Korean Manager Oh Sung-dong said, "It would be really good if [Lionel] Messi came here and wore our shoes" (REUTERS, 10/30).
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