North Korea Withdraws From 2022 Qatar World Cup

( After pulling out of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Football Confederation confirmed on Sunday that North Korea has also pulled out of next month’s qualifying tournament for the World Cup finals to be held in Qatar next year.

South Korea is scheduled to host the matches in June, however North Korea informed them that it intends to withdraw citing fears of coronavirus infection, among other reasons.

The AFC said it would try to convince Pyongyang to reconsider its decision, but thus far has been unsuccessful.

Given North Korea’s ongoing economic troubles, no doubt it has much more pressing problems than qualifying for the Qatar World Cup.

At the beginning of the year North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced an ambitious 5-year plan to jump-start North Korea’s shattered economy. But things have not been going as expected.

In remarks back on January 9, Kim blamed international sanctions, the ongoing pandemic and “natural disasters” for preventing the government from improving people’s lives.

Additionally, Kim criticized North Korean officials for making mistakes in the implementation of his plan.

The plan includes expanding almost every industry from metal and chemical production to coal mining, tourism, and public transit. Additionally, Kim plans to invest in tidal and nuclear power plants as well as “zero-carbon buildings” and “zero-energy buildings.”

And, because it’s Kim Jong Un, the plan also includes proposals for more advanced nuclear weapons.

However, according to Chad O’Carroll, CEO of Korea Risk Group, this latest economic plan is unlikely to turn North Korea’s decaying economy around, making it difficult for Kim to deliver on his lofty promises.

According to Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, North Korea’s economic and social conditions “are worse than many outsiders appreciate.”

“Kim tells his people about domestic shortfalls and promises improvements,” he said, “but it unlikely to adjust policies to receive aid and assistance.”

In 1991 North Korea’s economy began shifting away from a fully centralized model after many private markets and businesses sprang up in the void created by government failures. But Kim is looking to end that privatization and return North Korea to a central planning economy.

“The important tasks,” Kim said in January “is to restore the state’s leading role and control in the overall commerce service activities and preserve the nature of socialist commerce serving the people.”

And that may be the problem.