No wonder Kim Jong-un loves Italian football! Meet Han Kwang-Song, North Korea's teen scoring sensation

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The Bianconeri are scouting an 18-year-old attacker who has netted four times in his first two Serie B outings for Perugia


PROFILE

Kim Jong-un is not a man with many friends, allies or admirers outside of North Korea.

However, on August 27, the country's 'supreme leader' - who is said to be a big fan of Italian football - received a message of congratulations from a member of the Italian senate, Andrea Razzi.

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Less than 24 hours beforehand, Kwang-Song Han had lit up the opening weekend of the new Serie B season by netting a hat-trick in Perugia's 5-1 win at Virtus Entella.

The diminutive attacker had exhibited impressive composure for one so young in coolly converting two first-half openings but it was the way in which he calmly completed the scoring in Chiavari that really took the breath away.

With five minutes remaining, Santiago Colombatto lofted the ball towards the right-hand side of the Entella area. Han tracked it all the way before leaping into the air and almost nonchalantly guiding the ball into the bottom right corner with a first-time, side-footed volley.

"He's destined to do great things," Perugia assistant coach Davide Ciampelli enthused afterwards. "He is player of really great quality. He has had a really great impact and to give us goals like this means that he really has the characteristics that can allow us to look forward to the future."

Han Kwang-Song

Indeed, he struck again in his very next outing, a 4-2 win over Pescara a week later, to take an early lead in the race to become Serie B's capocannoniere. His sensational start was headline news but those who had already seen him in action were not in the least bit surprised.

"He's a bright boy," Pescara boss Zdenek Zeman said. "I'd already watched him at Cagliari."

Indeed, it was in Sardinia that Han had first made history by netting in just his second appearance for the Rossoblu, against Torino in April, to become the first North Korean to score in Serie A.

"He's an extremely interesting player," Cagliari boss Massimo Rastelli mused. "He's got great quality, he's really fast and since [Marco] Sau was exhausted and we were lacking forwards, I decided to throw him in and he made his contribution.

"He needs time to grow slowly but Han has really made a strong impression on us.

"He's hungry to make it and he's bound to get his chance between now and the end of the season. He's going to play and I think he's going to give us a lot of satisfaction."

Although Han did feature three more times before the end of the 2016-17 campaign, Rastelli ultimately decided that the teenager would be better served by a temporary transfer to Perugia.

It was a deal that suited everyone concerned, particularly Han, who declared on the day his season-long loan deal was confirmed that "I'm very happy to be home" because it had been in Perugia where Han had taken his first steps in the world of Italian football.

In 2014, Razzi led an Italian delegation of politicians and entrepreneurs on a controversial trip to North Korea.

"There were also scouts that had optioned some young players for Italian squads," Razzi explained in an interview with the Corriere dello Sport . "Entella and Udinese, if I'm not mistaken."

However, Alessandro Dominici, the head of the IMS football academy in Perugia, was also member of the travelling party and he offered 10 players - including Han - the chance to develop their skills in Umbria.

The initiative raised many eyebrows in Italy and was even the subject of a government investigation due to the fact that the European Union was, at the time, supporting economic sanctions against North Korea.

The primary issue was whether Italian clubs could be seen to be supporting an enemy regime in any way shape or form, given that any money paid to North Korean players was likely to end up back in the republic.

"No North Korean working outside the national borders can keep their wage for themselves," read report, Human Rights and North Korea’s Overseas Labor: 'Dilemmas and Policy Challenges', cited during the Italian government investigation.

"In particular, the politics of indoctrination and the surveillance measures are of even greater influence over the North Koreans that find themselves abroad, who are normally denied contact with the press, while the relations with their foreign colleagues are strictly limited to what is necessary for the effective execution of their work."

Han Kwang-Song

Both Perugia and Cagliari have insisted that wages have been paid directly to Han and that where the money has gone after that was none of their business.

Despite all of the intrigue and interest surrounding him and his nationality, Han, to his credit, has remained focused on his football and is now reaping the benefits, on the field at least.

Indeed, Goal has learned that Juventus are now carefully monitoring the development of a player blessed with a blistering turn of pace and excellent technique.

It is true that very little is known about Han the person. Both Cagliari and Perugia have, understandably, done their utmost to shield him from the media, particularly now, at a time of great political tension between North Korea and the United States.

However, his team-mates speak of a polite, amiable character, and the fact that he revealed during one of his few interviews that his favourite player is Cristiano Ronaldo suggests he is no different from other players his age.

The difference is, however, that this is a young man that has the ability to not only carve a career out for himself at the highest level but also offer some hope to others in an otherwise bleak period in his nation's history.

For that reason alone, one hopes that the next message of congratulations Razzi sends will be directed towards Han, and Han alone.

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