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What Awaits North Koreans Returning Without Olympic Medals?

What Awaits North Koreans Returning Without Olympic Medals?

North Koreans cheer ahead of the women's 1000 meters short track speedskating heats on Tuesday. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 20 February 2018 03:06 PM

A concern about what awaits those who return to North Korea without Winter Olympic medals is rooted in history, including reports that one of the country’s failed World Cup teams was sent to the gulags and another endured hours of public reprimand.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un went all in on Winter Olympics diplomacy. The country sent 22 athletes to participate in the games, along with 140 musicians, a demonstration taekwondo team, a 229-woman cheering squad and 21 journalists, Fox News reported. Not to mention his high-ranking sister.

The seven men and 15 women athletes, including 12 who were part of a joint women’s ice hockey team with South Korea, so far have little to show for it.

Fox News reported that Kim Jong Un called for his ruling party to assist the country's athletes to win at the Olympics and other international contests in a decree titled "Let Us Usher in a New Golden Age of Building a Sports Power in the Revolutionary Spirit of Paektu."

"Only sportspeople can cause the flag of our republic to be hoisted in the sky of other countries in peace time," the statement said, per Fox News.

When North Korea became the first Asian team in history to reach the World Cup in 1966 and upset Italy in one round before bowing out, team members were arrested upon their return to the country, the U.K. Daily Star reported.

North Korean defector Kang Chol-hwan said, per the Daily Star, that he met with members of the team who reportedly were held in a concentration camp.

The Chosunilbo reported North Korea's 2010 World Cup team endured hours of public reprimand after going 0-3 during the tournament. Radio Free Asia reported the team was made to stand on stage in the People's Palace of Culture and subjected to criticism for six hours.

A source said the theme of the session was "criticizing the betrayal of the trust of Kim Jong Un."

"At the end of the session the team members were made to criticize their coach," a source told Radio Free Asia in 2010, per The Chosunilbo.

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A concern about what awaits those who return to North Korea without Winter Olympic medals is rooted in history, including reports that one of the country’s failed World Cup teams was sent to the gulags and another endured hours of public reprimand.
north koreans, return, without, olympic medals
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2018-06-20
Tuesday, 20 February 2018 03:06 PM
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