North Korean fans tidy up after themselves and leave the away fans’ section of the Ajinomoto stadium spotless.

It’s fair to say, especially less than a month after a ballistic missile fell into the Sea of Japan, that Japan and North Korea are not the best of friends politically. Sports events, attended by patriotic fans, can be a barometer of national tensions, but there was no sign of that at the Japan vs. North Korea match last week as part of the EAFF (East Asian Football Federation) Finals being held in Japan from December 9 to 16.

Instead, Japanese Twitter user @Y2031A posted a photo taken shortly after the match, which was held at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on December 9, showing the area where the North Korean supporters had been sitting. The place was surprisingly clean and tidy, the supporters having taken all of their rubbish away with them after a tense game that saw Japan win their first game of the round 1-0.

@Y2031A said that they hoped the photo of the fans’ good behaviour would change Japanese people’s negative image of North Koreans, saying:

“Japanese people see North Koreans in a negative light, but there also loads of good people like this too. Japan should learn from this.”

While most Japanese commenters, surprised by the image, praised the North Korean fans, and compared the spick-and-span supporters’ area to the trash-covered streets of Shibuya after Halloween, others were more skeptical.

“That’s amazing.”
“Compared to Japanese people in Shibuya at Halloween, those North Koreans are great.”
“North Korea may have its problems but this is at least pretty good.”
“Isn’t it simply that they didn’t have anything to drop in the first place?”
“Maybe their Great Leader just ordered them to ‘Pick up your trash!'”
“It’s not North Koreans that are bad, just their government.”

There’s a twist in the tale though, which @Y2031A wasn’t aware of or didn’t mention. Under the current restrictions placed on North Korea as part of sanctions against the regime’s weapons testing, North Koreans are unable to travel to Japan. While a special exemption was made for the players, the flag-and-scarf waving, patriotic song-singing North Korean fans, of which there were more than 2,000, were in fact all residents of Japan. The majority were students at North Korean high schools or universities in Japan, or North Koreans with permanent residence visas living in Japan who had travelled across the country to make it to the game.

Either way, the fans should be commended for leaving the place so tidy; maybe they all read a highly informative article on SoraNews24 (which may or may not be required reading in a certain communist dictatorship) about what to do with your rubbish as a visitor to Japan.

Source: Twitter/Y2031A via jin115
Featured image: Twitter/@Y2031A