June 17, 2010— -- The North Koreans know a thing or two about secret programs, and the country's latest claim is a mysterious phone that allows Dear Leader Kim Jong-il help coach the team from afar.
North Korean manager Kim Jong-Hun reportedly gets coaching advice directly from the country's diminutive dictator via an invisible cell phone.
According to ESPN.com the coach has claimed he gets "regular tactical advice during matches" from Jong Il "using mobile phones that are not visible to the naked eye."
"Jong Il is said to have developed the technology himself," coach told ESPN.com.
While the stealth phone might be the latest of the North Korean leader's inventions -- in 2004 he claimed to have invented the hamburger -- it's just one in a series of oddball details to emerge from the country's first presence at the World Cup tournament in 44 years.
Trying to recreate some of the magic that led them to an historic victory over Italy the in 1966 World Cup, the North Koreans played No.1-ranked Brazil on Tuesday.
While losing to Brazil, the underdogs managed a face saving showing, 2-1 score.
Cameras caught a contingent of North Korean supporters in the stands cheering eagerly, each dressed exactly the same in a red shirt and cap and waving North Korean flags.
It's not certain, however, that any of those flag waving fans were North Korean.
In May, 1,000 Chinese nationals were essentially rented by the government of North Korea to sit in the stands and cheer, according to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency.
Given that few citizens of the impoverished nation could afford to attend the games, or would be allowed to leave the country, the North Korean Sports Committee gave tickets to Chinese nationals, many of them actors and singers, to attend the event, Xinhua reported.
North Korean World Cup Team Brags of 'Self Reliance'
Additional tickets were sold to Chinese willing to support North Korea, according to Reuters.
In addition to the fans, the team's star player is also a foreigner impersonating a North Korean.
On Tuesday, striker Jong Tae-se became the international symbol of North Korean patriotic fealty when a television camera caught him weeping as the North Korean anthem played before the game. The only problem with that story: Tae-se isn't North Korean.
Born and raised in Japan to South Korean parents, the striker has never lived in North Korea and plays for a Japanese pro team. Each time he plays for the North Korean side, he goes to the North Korean embassy in Tokyo and turns in his South Korean passport for a North Korean one.
When he returns to Japan, he goes back to the embassy and switches passports again.
Nevertheless, North Koreans are proud that at least their coach is one of their own, said Han Park, director of the Center for the Study of Global Issues at the University of Georgia.
"They are proud of fact they did not employ a foreign coach. They didn't spend a dime on that. It is their own knowledge of the game, their own skill," he said.
A mixture of what Han called "the principal of self reliance" and just "not having any money" led the North Koreans to become inadvertent viral video stars.
Where many of the foreign teams who arrived in South Africa arranged for private training facilities with state of the art equipment, the broke North Koreans opted for using a public health club.
A video posted to YouTube shows the team working out at a South African gym, as confused patrons look on and fascinated players ask South African gym-goers to pose for photographs.
So far no North Koreans back home have seen any of the games, and those hoping to catch a glimpse of the competition must wait as the deal to bring live coverage of the cup came apart in the wake of a military dispute between North and South Korea.
South Korea yanked its agreement to provide free television broadcasts of the games to the North following the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in March.
North Korea Lost Coverage of World Cup After Sinking of South Korean Ship
A tape of Tuesday's game against Brazil will likely be shown on state-run television since North Korea secured broadcast rights to World Cup telecasts from the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union.
"The hype around the World Cup is not the same in North Korea as in open societies," said Han Park, director of the Center for the Study of Global Issues at the University of Georgia.
"The average person is not very well informed of these games," Han said. "To the extent that they have a reason to be proud, the leadership will selectively reveal information to the people."
All media in North Korea is tightly controlled. Only a small number of people own televisions. In the capital Pyongyang, all homes come equipped with state-produced radios which cannot be turned off.
North Korea was selected to play in Group G, the so-called "Group of Death" that includes some of the world's best squads including Brazil, Portugal and Cote d'Ivoire.
They next play Portugal on June 21.