North Korea's Jong Tae-Se cries during anthem

Daryl Grove

We've already seen some emotional national anthem performances during this World Cup. The Italian players gave a particularly vocal rendition of "Il Canto degli Italiani" (The Chant of the Italians) before their game against Paraguay, and Chile's players did "CanciĆ³n Nacional" (National Song) proud before playing Honduras. But North Korea's Jong Tae-Se has them all beat. Because when "Aegukka" (The Patriotic Song) was played before North Korea's encounter with Brazil, Jong burst into tears. You can see Jong's tear ducts working overtime in the above video, for which I'm awarding 10 cool points to the camerman for sticking with Jong rather than continuing to pan left.

Apparently Jong is a regular blubberer during the North Korean national anthem, but he's not usually doing it in front of a global audience. So this isn't new for him, it's just new for the rest of the world. It's tempting to crack easy jokes about brainwashing or tear ducts being surgically modified to react to certain combinations of musical notes, but turns out Jong is a more interesting character than a simple victim of totalitarianism.

Jong was actually born in Japan to South Korean parents and has lived his entire life in Japan, where he currently plays in the J-League for Kawasaki Frontal. Jong is only "eligible to play for the DPRK after handing back his South Korean citizenship and [being] handed his new passport at the North Korean consulate in Tokyo." Which is a big move.

Tough to know what to make of Jong Tae-Se. Given his hard-working performance in the 2-1 defeat to Brazil, I'm inclined to believe those tears were genuinely patriotism-powered. Albeit for a nation he doesn't actually live in. So I'm also inclined to believe that at least one of the North Korean players that actually lives full time in North Korea was wishing Jong Tae-Se would just give it a rest and stop making them look unpatriotic by comparison.

- Daryl also writes for World Cup Blog.

What to Read Next