North Korea captain, Jang Kuk Chol and teammate Kim Kyong Sok attacked referee Rustam Lutfullin after the final whistle.
The North Koreans were earlier furious when Lutfullin awarded a penalty to Japan after their goalkeeper Kang Juh Yok charged out and clipped the feet of Japans Jun Nishikawa with an outstretched arm.
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Yuta Matsumura slotted home the winning penalty from the spot to see Japan through to the semi-finals.
DPRK coach Sin Yong Nam reportedly defended his players behavior as acceptable, noting that such heated confrontations can happen in soccer.
I admit that our players were a little bit over-excited in the match but it is football, he said at the post-match press conference.
Despite this, history shows North Korea has a complex relationship with its former colonizer when it comes to soccer. Historical issues like Japanese imperial rule and North Koreas abduction of Japanese citizens, as well as geopolitical tensions, have sometimes loomed large over previous matchups between their national teams.
When the two sides last found themselves in the same World Cup qualifying group in 2011, Japan prevailed 1-0 in Saitama, and the DPRK won the reverse fixture in Pyongyang by the same scoreline two months later.
The second match was effectively a dead rubber as Japan was already through to the next round and North Korea had already been eliminated, but Pyongyangs reception for the visitors suggested it took the match very seriously.
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