Soccer Fans Are Funding the North Korean Nuclear Programme

Qatar is building a series of amazing venues for both the 2022 Soccer World Cup and their country in general (i.e. not specifically for the World Cup). As hosts of the cup they naturally want their country to look its best when it’s on display to the world. And on the surface, everything is beautiful.

Dig a little deeper though, and there’s a lot of ugliness. People are suffering and dying because of what Qatar is doing, and what FIFA is letting them get away with. FIFA made promises following earlier exposure of the appalling labour practices in the country. However, there appears to have been few, if any, changes for immigrant workers and nothing Qatar can do to lose their status as a venue.

Many of the labourers working on the project, for example, are slave labourers from North Korea. Thus, the world’s soccer fans are inadvertently funding the North Korean nuclear programme.  This is yet another by-product of the corrupt FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) awarding the World Cup to Qatar in 2022.

Al Wakrah Stadium, Qatar

Al Wakrah Stadium (yes, that is what it looks like), FIFA 2022 Sports Arena in Qatar, by AECOM with Zaha Hadid Architects (Source: Click pic to go to source)

The Soccer World Cup 2022: Qatar’s Selection

Many will already be aware of the scandal around the Soccer World Cup being in Qatar in the first place. Just to get the tournament, BBC’s Panorama programme estimates that Qatar spent £117 million in bribes. (NZ$ 210 million; US$154 million.) Bribery in the awarding of the Soccer World Cup is not new. It’s been an open secret for as long as I can remember. However, no one was willing to do anything about. Change came when England and the USA lost world cup bids to campaigns that were clearly less legitimate than their own.

(As it turns out, England at least were also not above bribery in their attempt to secure the World Cup. It’s just that Qatar was better at it.)

The USA went down the legal road in calling out FIFA so they’re finally getting their comeuppance. A series of investigations began which led to the discovery of a wide range of fraudulent and other illegal activity by FIFA people. Just before leaving her role of US Attorney General in January, Loretta Lynch said to the Independent, “The first trial is scheduled for October, and the investigation continues …”. There will be more news to come on that story in the future.

Thus, those issues are being dealt with. The corruption at FIFA led to a new president, Gianni Infantino, but it seems it’s otherwise pretty much business as usual. Russia and Qatar are still the hosts of the next two soccer world cups to the dismay of many, including me. There’s an even more serious issue though: what’s happening in Qatar regarding the building of the new stadia for the Cup.

Slave Labour in Qatar

Three years ago The Guardian did this immensely sad story (includes video) about the treatment of Nepalese labourers in Qatar. At that time the majority of foreign workers were from Nepal. Many were receiving no pay, their work and living conditions were atrocious, and there was a large number of worker accidents and deaths. Back then they were expecting Qatar would be requiring a further 1.5 million foreign labourers to complete construction projects, and that was before the announcement of Qatar winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup. That was a whole lot more people available for abuse by construction companies.

This lead to a promise from FIFA that they would ensure good workers’ rights in Qatar on World Cup projects. They clearly didn’t follow through.

Gianni Infantino

Gianni Infantino (Source: Wikipedia Commons.)

North Korean Labourers

A year later The Guardian was checking in on the situation in Qatar again. Unfortunately, though not unexpectedly, there was no progress.

Their focus this time was labourers from North Korea. It seems their situation was even worse than that of the Nepalese, at least some of whom were being paid, albeit badly. On their return home, there was a requirement for North Korean labourers to give some or all of their earnings to their government. The Guardian reports a worker as saying: “We are here to earn foreign currency for our nation.”

They go on to report:

The North Korean regime, led by Kim Jong-un, is currently subject to international sanctions as it continues to defy calls to end its nuclear programme and address severe human rights abuses. A recent UN report accused the regime of crimes against humanity. The foreign currency earned by its overseas workforce is a crucial tool for propping up the isolated country’s fragile economy.

Fixing the Problem of North Korea

Stopping the use of guest workers from North Korea won’t fix either the issue of worker abuse and exploitation in Qatar or the North Korea nuclear programme. However, at least it might bring some attention to both issues. We all know that China is really the biggest problem, and I will address that in a separate post. However, exports aren’t North Korea’s only source of the foreign currency they need to finance their nuclear programme. Guest workers – really slave labourers – are another one. Qatar isn’t the only country they go to either, but an event like the Soccer World Cup is an occasion that can highlight the problem.

Women’s Rights in Qatar

Qatar is a Muslim-majority country. Therefore, by definition, women do not have equal rights to men. As in many Middle Eastern countries, women are expected to cover up. There is a requirement for women who attend the World Cup from other countries to do the same.

Some will say that this is simply a matter of respecting the customs of another country. However, I think that’s a cop out. That’s something that’s often said when it comes to women’s rights. No one thinks it’s okay that gay people, apostates,  atheists, or blasphemers face corporal or capital punishment. But, somehow women having a lifelong dress  code no matter the circumstances is okay.

Jesus and Mo on Women's Rights

“Besides, it’s not really discrimination if it’s against chicks.”

These are some of the posters that you will see around Qatar asking women to cover up:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is Article 57 of Qatar’s Constitution, which is what applies here:

Article 57, Qatar Constitution

(Click pic to go to full Qatar Constitution. Link is to a PDF.)

Wikipedia describes the article thus:

All people that reside in the state must abide by public order and morality.

There’s that word again – “morality”. Conservative religion, in this case Islam, judges a woman’s morality by her clothing. It’s wrong.

If I were a soccer fan, I would not attend the World Cup in Qatar. To me, that’s akin to supporting the corrupt selection process, the abuse of workers in Qatar, the North Korean nuclear programme, and the abuse of women. To me, that’s immoral. Wearing shorts and a tank top in hot weather isn’t.



If you enjoyed reading this, please consider donating a dollar or two to help keep the site going. Thank you.



17 Responses to “Soccer Fans Are Funding the North Korean Nuclear Programme”

  1. Ken says:

    What a sad state of affairs for international sport. Of course, human rights should not need to be left to the market, but let’s hope the market speaks loudly here. Not only should people not attend in person, but we comfortable Westerners need also send a message by boycotting the games on TV and making sure the commercial sponsors know we’re doing so. As a football fan, I hereby pledge to do so.

    • Good on you Ken. I feel like a bit of a fraud in this because I would be unlikely to be watching anyway unless I had a guest who wanted to watch. However, if that happens I will be telling the guest they’ll have to find somewhere else to watch the games.

    • nicky says:

      This is absolutely disgusting. I had no idea about the slave labour, but on the other hand it does not really surprise me.
      I’ll be honest: I’m a great football fan, and would like to take that pledge. However, I would not like to break a pledge either. I’m kind of disgusted with myself that I cannot yet honestly take the pledge right away, I’m not sure I’d keep it. I know I should, and probably will (so keep going Heather, that will help), but you know: “it is going on anyway, what difference would a little peek make now?” Gnothi seavton.

      • It’s a long way away still. Who knows what will happen in the meantime? e.g. war could break out and they’ll be forced to relocate to a country that already has suitable venues and a good human rights record.

        They might be forced to take the cup away from Russia too, which would be a result imo. Putin was waiting for Sochi to be over so he could launch his takeover of Ukraine. I wouldn’t mind betting he’s got plans for after the soccer as well.

      • Ken says:

        Good luck, nicky. I get the conundrum. If it helps, while we can’t make a difference to this World Cup, boycotting it may make some difference to the next!

  2. rickflick says:

    This is a fascinating and a bit daunting dip into the Qatari culture. There dress code from women is certainly not as draconian as in some other areas such as Saudi Arabia.
    I often like to compare foreign customs to American customs of a century or more ago. Before the 1950s when bikinis became popular/accepted, women covered up in public somewhat like the Qataris do today. The forces that led to our Victorian style were Queen Victoria(naturally), as well as our history of Christian religious modesty. Even men’s swim suits 100 years ago covered knees and shoulders. Now, in the era of the Speedo almost anything goes. The David(Michelangelo) swimsuit:

  3. Randy schenck says:

    It is odd that the USA officials had this ping of morality about the standard operating procedures of the FIFA regarding the corruption and bribery because they show no concern for the same within U.S. sports or anywhere in the Washington DC area. Anyway, there are so many reasons why Qatari is not a place to hold any sporting event I don’t know where one would start but you did a pretty good job here.

  4. Mark Sturtevant says:

    Yikes. Is there any discussion about more civilized nations boycotting this event?

  5. Lee Knuth says:

    Would be wonderful if the rest of the world would boycott the World Cup, but doubt it will happen.

    • nicky says:

      It would be wonderful, but I doubt too, and it would only make a difference if a substantial number of countries** like Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Spain, Uruguay, France, Netherlands, England, Chile, Ghana and other more or less serious contenders would boycott. I mean, if only, say, Vietnam, Surinam, Nicaragua, South Africa and (sorry to say) New Zealand would boycott it would be a useless exercise.
      **[if only the three-four mentioned first would boycott it would already have a serious impact. Are we talking strategy for possible action here? I can imagine -with some difficulty- Netherlands, Uruguay and Germany (and possibly even France?) actually boycotting]

      • Don’t be sorry. We’re nobodies in soccer, and I can think of at least one long term president of NZFA who obviously (to me) took bribes for his vote in the past. Not sure if he’s still around now.

  6. Graham says:

    This is a country which requires women to dress ‘modestly’ yet is building a football stadium shaped like a vagina. Really?

    • I was hoping someone would mention that!

      I think it says a lot about the repressed sexuality of such a culture.

      • rickflick says:

        Reminiscent of Freud in the early part of last century. Yet, different in some ways. Repression was caused by Christian culture in Europe. I think Arabs/Islam have developed a hyper sensitivity to gender which makes them not so much repressed as obsessed with sexual mores. From what I’ve observed Arab culture is simply very masculine. There is a sense of machismo that rivals any culture you could name.

    • nicky says:

      Had the same thoughts, but desisted out of fear of being considered a sexual maniac for seeing vaginas anywhere. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.