Having previously reached the final of the AFC U-17 Championship two years ago, Korea DPR again came tantalisingly close to winning the tournament, only to lose 4-2 to Japan in this year's final.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Koreans, particularly as they had taken a two-goal lead inside 25 minutes through O Jin-Hyok and Ri Sang-Chol. Nevertheless, the North Koreans were still able to leave Singapore with their heads held high as their performances over the tournament earned them yet another opportunity to surprise the world.

While their challenge for the continental championship has ended in disappointments in recent years, Korea DPR certainly made a good impression at the last FIFA U-17 World Championship in Peru.

After a narrow defeat to USA in the opening game, they found form against Ivory Coast with a 3-0 win in which their star striker Choe Myong-Ho found the net twice. A 1-1 draw by Italy in the last group match followed, yet this was still sufficient to see Korea DPR advance to the quarter-finals.

There, against Brazil, they showed that their discipline and courage could more than make up for any lack of experience, and although the Brazilians won the match 3-1, the three-time world champions were pushed all the way by the debutants for the entire 120 minutes.

With four berths for the FIFA U-17 World Cup at stake, the Koreans did not need extra motivation going into the first match against Saudi Arabia, and captain An Il-Bom ensured that they went into the break one goal to the good. However, a spirited second half comeback from the consigned Korea DPR to a 2-1 defeat, one from which they bounced back brilliantly in their next match with a resounding 6-2 win over Myanmar, with Ri Myong-Jun, Ri Sang-Chol and O Jin-Hyok all scoring twice.

The quarter-final against defending champions China PR provided sweet revenge for the Koreans, who lost 1-0 to the Chinese in the final of 2004 edition. Despite conceding an early goal and going down to ten men after just a quarter of an hour, Korea DPR again showed their character and hauled themselves back into the match four minutes later thanks to Ri Myong-Jun's equaliser. The match then went into extra time and playmaker O Jin-Hyok was the hero, scoring the winner in the 110th minute to secure a place in the semi-finals and a berth at the year's FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Another comprehensive win followed in the semi-final, with inspirational captain An scoring twice and Ri Sang-Chol adding another to see off the challenge of Tajikistan. However, the Asian crown proved elusive again this time round, with Japan edging a closely-fought final in extra time.

A player for 425 in the country's Division One, An Ye Gun was appointed as Head Coach of Korea DPR in 2007. Between 1986 and 1996 he was a coach of the U-16 national team before the helm at Sobaeksu between 1997 and 2004. In 2005, An moved back to junior coaching, linking up with the U-17 side, before being appointed as Head Coach a year later.


  • Quarter-finalists at Peru 2005

"So far, the players have been preparing well. I am very confident that we will qualify from the group and that we will qualify for the semi-finals." (An Ye Gun, head coach)