10 years of diplomatic relations celebrated with football

Bend it like Beckham

In 2004, Koryo Tours together with Ealing Studios and the British Embassy screened the film Bend it Like Beckham at the Pyongyang International Film Festival. It was seen by over 12,000 Pyongyang citizens and was the film they raved about…during the festival Koryo Tours were inundated with requests for tickets from staff at the hotel they were staying. During the film the coach tells the heroine of the film to make a decision about her life…and this was translated as her following the Juche way.

On the morning of 12 December 2000, at a brief signing ceremony in the office of the Permanent Undersecretary, Sir John Kerr, in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, Britain and the DPRK signed a document in which they agreed to exchange diplomatic missions. Ten years later, the British Embassy in Pyongyang had to come up with ideas for marking 10 years of diplomatic relations – and football was what they came up with. Working with Koryo Tours they took Middlesbrough Women’s football team to play two local Korean sides in October 2010 (to a total of 14,000 fans and nationwide TV broadcast) and on Boxing Day the film Bend It Like Beckham was broadcast in Pyongyang. This was the first European-made film ever to air on North Korean TV.

In London, there had been earlier rumours that the North Korean embassy was planning a North Korean film festival to mark 10 years of diplomatic relations. In the end, nothing so high-profile happened (no doubt events in the West Sea had something to do with it), but we did have a North-Korean made footie film, Centre Forward, screened earlier this year.

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