North Korean bootmakers want to score with Messi
By Ju-min Park
DANDONG, China (Reuters) - Top soccer-boot maker Adidas probably shouldn't be worrying just yet but a rare venture that marries South Korean money with North Korean labour in the Chinese city of Dandong aims to make its mark on the world soccer scene.
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 soccer boots and dream of taking on the world.
The factory, overseen by managers sporting badges showing North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung, have 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.
"Boots can be made by machines but hand-sewn ones can be made to match individual preferences and they're more comfortable," said Chung Nam-chul, a veteran shoemaker.
"We play soccer in our boots to test them and pick good ones," added Chung as he nailed down soles on a pair he was working on.
The visit by a Reuters news team was supervised by North Korean managers attached to the factory where workers sew under the slogan "Our Technology. Best Quality Soccer Boots".
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 soccer league teams, which is run by the Korean People's Army, the North's armed forces. Continued...