North Korean nuclear threats scared off top intentional players from joining South Korean football clubs, according to an author.
South Korea’s spectacular performance and hosting of the 2002 World Cup attracted many South American players to its K-League.
But many were “very much aware” of tubby tyrant Kim Jong-un’s predecessor and father Jong-il’s constant missile threats at the time.
Devon Rowcliffe, 40, has detailed the year Chelsea FC legend Ian Porterfield and three English footballers tried to revive the struggling league in 2003.
Who Ate All the Squid?: Football Adventures in South Korea tells of how the Sunderland FA Cup hero lured former England youth striker Jamie Cureton to turn Busan IPark’s fortunes with former Stoke forward Andy Cooke and Nottingham Forest’s Jon Olav Hjelde.
Mr Rowcliffe, columnist for Loonie Politics in Toronto, Canada, told the Daily Star: “There was quite a bit of tension – there were issues with North Korean test firing missiles, threatening they were developing nuclear weapons.
“The leader then was Kim Jong-il. He was firing off missiles regularly to rattle the western world.
“When some international players did come out they were very much aware of the tensions on the peninsula.
“A lot of Brazilian players go to the Korean League to play.
“I’m pretty sure it was in the back of the mind for a lot of foreign players.
“It could have been when they were choosing which K-League club to sign with, it could have been more likely that they would sign at one in the south as that’s further from the border.”
He added: “It wasn’t too much of a worry but it’s always in the back of your mind that North Korea is there.
“One of the benefits of being in Busan in the south east was you were in the part of Korea which was the furthest from North Korea.
“All of the clubs area based in Seoul and they are very very close to North Korea.”