North Korea have played five times at the AFC Asian Cup till date and their best performancewas finishing fourth place at the 1980 edition of the AFC Asian Cup in Kuwait. The North Koreans were drawn in Group A alongside Syria, Iran, Bangladesh and China PR.

The North Koreans began their campaign in Group A with a 3-2 win over Bangladesh thanks to the brace from Choi Jae-pil. The goals from Jae-pil within a minute gave North Korea a 2-0lead at the halftime interval. Kazi Salahuddin pulled one back for Bangladesh on the hour mark before Kim Jong-man scored for the North Koreans with two minutes left to play to re-establishtheir two-goal lead. Ashraf Chunnu reduced the deficitfor Bangladesh on the stroke of fulltime to ensure the game ended with a one-goal win for North Korea.

In their second Group A game, Hwang Sang-hoi scored the winning goal as North Korea came from behind to beat China PR 2-1. The win over China PR made it two victories from two games for the North Koreans. The North Koreans suffered their first defeat in the group with the 3-2 loss at the hands of Iran. Hwang Sang-hoi scored one of the goals for North Korea, but it was not enough for a draw at least. North Korea ended their group campaign with a 2-1 win over Syria. The North Koreans finished their campaign in Group A with three victories and one defeat from four games thus securing a place in the semifinals

For their semifinal clash, North Korea faced rivals South Korea. The North Koreans were knocked out of the 1980 AFC Asian Cup by the South Koreans via a 2-1 scoreline. Chung Hae-won scored twice in the last ten minutes for South Korea to turn the game on its head after Pak Jong-hun scored the opener for North Korea from the penalty spot. North Korea finished fourth with the 3-0 loss to Iran in the third/fourth place playoff.

Hosts Kuwait finished as the winners after their 3-0 win over South Korea.