Star footballer Han Kwang Song, one of the most promising young North Korean footballers, and the first DPRK national to play in Serie A, the top division of Italian football/soccer, is on the move again, this time from Juventus (the most successful team in Italy) to Qatar’s Al-Duhail FC, a statement from the club confirmed.
The move comes a mere four months since the DPRK national team member joined the “Old Lady of Italian Football” from Cagliari, also of Italy, where he had been since 2015.
Qatari Royal Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad confirmed the move, and welcomed Han to the club via a Tweet.
Al Duhail is one of the best teams in Qatar’s Star League (the top football division in Qatar) and Han is expected to immediately be part of the starting 11.
Han was reportedly purchased by Juventus from Cagliari for around $4 million, before being sold to Al-Duhail for around $5.5 million, thus making the 21-year-old the most valuable North Korean footballer in history.
And this is where a fabulous story of sport bringing nations together ends, on a massive high note…but sadly that is not the world we live in.
Many have questioned whether it breaches UN resolution 2397, approved by the Security Council in 2017 that states that all member states must repatriate “all DPRK nationals earning income in that Member State”. Despite being passed in 2017, the rule only came into effect on December 22nd 2019, and has led to tens of thousands of DPRK citizens having to return home. Most of the returnees have come from China and Russia, although a diverse amount of nations have been affected including Cambodia, and ironically Qatar, who had used North Korean labour as part of their controversial construction program for the 2022 World Cup.
It is suspected that the reason for Juventus selling him in the first place was to comply with sanctions, although a spokesman for Qatar has stated that the transfer was not subject to sanctions (without giving any further details).
We live in hope that this star footballer will be allowed to grow and thrive at the top level, but never underestimate the level of stupidity when it comes to sanctions and North Korea.
Speaking to NK News at the time of his signing to Juventus last September, a spokesperson for the club insisted “Mr. Han is not subject to restrictions,” though would not go into detail about how precisely the club had managed to circumvent the rules.
Asked for comment on the transfer on Thursday, that same spokesperson declined to comment on the transfer.
Neither Qatar’s embassy in South Korea nor its permanent mission to the UN replied to requests for comment from NK News on whether the kingdom had obtained an exemption from the United Nations sanctions allowing Han to work in its territory.
The kingdom has for many years played host to North Korean workers usually on construction sites in conditions frequently described by international NGOs as exploitative and dangerous.
A sanctions implementation report by Qatar’s mission to the UN made public earlier in the year, however, insisted that the country was in compliance with its obligations under those rules and “on track to repatriate all nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea working in the State of Qatar.”