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Monday, 3 June, 2002, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Anger over N Korea Cup highlights
Brazilian football team fans
Until Saturday state media had never mentioned the World Cup
An investigation is underway into how North Korea obtained pirate recordings of the opening games of the World Cup, which were aired in the Stalinist state over the weekend.

Fifa officials and members of the German media group Kirch, which owns the World Cup broadcast rights, have been angered by the illegal broadcasts.


Kirch have confirmed there is no rights holder in North Korea. They are trying to find out how the tape was delivered

Fifa spokesman Keith Cooper
Kirch spent 2.8bn Swiss francs ($1.75bn) to get the television rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, but North Korea was not one of the 80 countries that made a deal with the company to broadcast footage of the games.

North Korea rejected all offers to be involved with the World Cup, which is being hosted by their arch-rivals South Korea and Japan, and until now the state media had not even mentioned the event since it was awarded to the South in 1996.

Smuggled tape

One hour of the opening match between France and Senegal was shown on state television on Saturday night and the second half of the Ireland-Cameroon draw was shown on Sunday night.

France and Senegal battle it out
The matches were the first ever from the South to be seen

The broadcasts showed advertising billboards and the stadiums' names, but concealed the official World Cup logo, an official at South Korea's Unification Ministry said.

Fifa spokesman Keith Cooper said "Kirch have confirmed there is no rights holder in North Korea".

"They are trying to find out how the tape was delivered. It was not with official permission," he added.

No legal action

Television industry executives said it would have been easy to record the matches in China and carry the tapes across the border to be shown a day later.

"The point is that North Korea is again just ignoring all international conventions to suit their own purposes," one said.


I guess there is such an interest in the event that the government felt they had to respond

Foreign aid worker in Pyongyang

Kirch said later it would not be taking any action against North Korea.

"We are not condoning it and would normally take out legal action," company spokesman John Kritick told the German news agency SID.

"But we have to look at the situation pragmatically. It would take a lot of time and work if we pursued it," he added.

It is believed to be the first time that the North has shown images of a sporting event in the South and officials in Seoul are predicting that their Communist neighbours will continue to air carefully selected highlights.

North Korean officials attending a reception in Pyongyang to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee in Britain were heard having lively conversations about the way the match had turned out, one foreigner said.

"I guess there is such an interest in the event that the government felt they had to respond," said one foreign aid worker.


Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

02 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 May 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
12 Feb 02 | Country profiles
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