Interesting little blog post at ESPN on Swiss side FC Basel’s Park Joo-Ho of South Korea and Pak Kwang-Ryong of North Korea:
Before the start of the second half, a pair of first-year Basel players sat beside one another on the bench, stretched out their legs, admired Marbella’s royal-blue sky and appeared to make small talk. No surprise there; they are teammates after all. But what no one appeared to notice — not that there were many people there besides a hundred or two maniacal Feyenoord supporters — was the geo-political gravitas of this potential photo-op. It is, quite literally, a photo that is not allowed to be taken: Park Joo-Ho of South Korea, Basel’s 25-year-old starting left back, sat beside Pak Kwang-Ryong of North Korea, the team’s 19-year-old substitute forward.
For Koreans on either side of the 38th parallel — the world’s most heavily fortified border — there can be severe consequences for fraternizing with the enemy. The armistice that ended the Korean War was signed on July 27, 1953, but a peace treaty was never put in place; technically, the two countries remain at war. In the Communist North, those suspected of mere contact with South Koreans are, according to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2012, subject to lengthy terms in “horrendous detention facilities or forced labor camps with chronic food and medicine shortages, harsh working conditions, and mistreatment by guards.” Though the democratic South has far more freedoms, its far-reaching National Security Law continues to stifle any exchange with, and interest in, North Korea. In short: A South Korean and a North Korean should not be shooting the breeze on a sunny afternoon in Spain.
It’s a fascinating post and well worth the read.
(HT to reader)