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The status of the South Korean worker in Kaesong, who has yet to be publicly identified, remains unknown.

The man is believed to have made drunken statements about North Korea, said Yoo Chung-Geun, vice chairman of an association of southern companies that operate in the North-South factory complex.

Asked what steps his organization was taking over the launch, Mr. Yoo told reporters, “We are monitoring the situation, but there is nothing we can do.”

While many believe that North Korea is attempting to grab the attention of the Obama administration, local experts disagree.

Choi Jin-wook of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul said that the North´s aggressive behavior has roots in its disintegrating economy.

In 2007, the cash-strapped nation ran a $500 million trade surplus with South Korea, and a $800 million deficit with China, he said.

But in late 2008, as the global financial crisis hit regional economies, Pyongyang´s surplus with Seoul sank to $340 million, while its deficit with Beijing climbed to $1.3 billion.

“North Korea is critically affected by the trade decline, so it started to escalate tension in November,” said Mr. Choi. “South Korea did not respond, so it continued raising tensions through February, then changed its target from South Korea to the United States.”

But while the North blusters to the outside world, there is also a strong domestic constituency that requires international tension to shore up internal stability.

“The regime needs a constant external threat, and the leader has to position himself against it,” said Michael Breen, a biographer of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. “The audience is all domestic.”

Given these issues, there is little chance that the soccer match, which put South Korea at the top of its qualifying group for the next World Cup, will be shown on state media north of the 38th parallel.

“North Korean media does not cover unplanned events,” said Mr. Myers. “And a loss to South Korea would be an unplanned event.”