SEOUL/BERLIN (Reuters) – As Olympic officials try to convince North Korea to join the things that they hope will be a calm winter Games from the South in February, chief Kim Jong Un includes a weakness that may assist them : He loves sport.
Kim has traded insults and atomic risks with U.S. President Donald Trump for months, raising concerns the Games, due to be held at a resort 80 km (50 miles) from the world’s most heavily fortified border, may be marred by political worries, or even worse.
Economic sanctions around the reclusive nation are now mounting but the athletic world and South Korea do everything in their power to try to coax Pyongyang to take an invitation into the Games and relieve geopolitical worries that have hurt ticket sales.
“We’re doing our utmost for the North’s participation,” said Ki-hun, a lawmaker with South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s celebration. “But Kim Jong Un is quite unpredictable,” added melody. He’s located near the Games venue and sits on a special parliamentary committee to support the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Kim, a basketball fan who sees former NBA star Dennis Rodman as a friend, has boosted spending on sports as part of his dream to turn the North to a “sports electricity”
If the North joins the Games it would mark the first time in post-war Olympic history that a country has hosted a group from a nation where it’s formally at war. The Korean War ended in 1953 with the armistice, not a peace treaty.
The last time South Korea hosted the Olympics, the 1988 summer Games in Seoul, North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il Sung, boycotted them following a strategy to co-host them fell apart.
“With North Korea that point, things will be simpler,” said a European official from a winter sports federation, asking not to be identified because of the political significance of the topic. “The Games will just be really successful if they’re smooth. If the United States, North Korea and China all have their own teams from South Korea then will be a success”
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the possibility of U.S. athletes competing with North Korea, a country Trump has threatened to “completely ruin” if provoked.
North Korea missed an Oct. 31 deadline to accept invitations from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and South Korea to join with the Games. But Games officials have said the North may wait until shortly before the Games to state whether it will join.
The IOC said its aid thus far has largely been with traveling and competition expenditures, and it will consider wild-card entries for those who don’t meet eligibility criteria.
Seoul has said it’s available for forming a unified North-South hockey hockey team. Pyongyang’s IOC representative dismissed that idea in a recent press interview, but a South Korean culture ministry official said Seoul hadn’t abandoned it.
Seoul’s other expressions incorporate a rare proposition for North Korean athletes to go into the South by walking around the border at Panmunjom, the stressed and heavily shielded “truce village” in which the 1953 armistice has been signed.
GOING FOR GLORY
Kim Jong Un, grandson of founder Kim Il Sung, has made sport a major focal point of his strategy to enhance living standards. Ever since he assumed power in 2011, spending on sport in the country’s annual budgets has grown quicker than the majority of other places, according to state media reports.
The reports, that only give percentage information, comprise a record 17% jump in financing in 2014 if Kim set out his dream for sports in an open letter for his Workers’ Party.
He encouraged the party and athletes to help make sport component of everyday life and uphold “the party’s strategy of constructing our country to a sports ability, sweat longer in training in order to bring glory to the country by winning gold medals.”
He had school textbooks revised to state he started shooting at a gun at age, was off-road driving before turning 8, and had twice defeated foreign master mariners in ship races, according to the Institute for National Security Strategy, the think tank of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service in Seoul. Reuters couldn’t confirm this report.
Simon Cockerell, mind of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, that has attracted competitors into the North for events ranging from the Pyongyang Marathon into Frisbee-throwing and cricket, ” said he’d noticed an increasing focus on sports beneath Kim.
“More events appear to be happening, DPRK sports teams are traveling more than ever, and success is celebrated over before,” said Cockerell, using the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
At the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea, North Korea’s athletes won 11 gold awards, standing first time, and were welcomed with a victory parade and a banquet with Kim who penned them for supporting the “party’s strategy for constructing a sports powerhouse”
The North is developing sports arenas and grounds, based on Curtis Melvin, of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, in which satellite imagery is used to map the North’s economic development.
“Satellite imagery reveals a lot of park renovation and construction of skate and sports parks, also in very remote places,” Melvin said.
Kim Jong Un, that analyzed at the Swiss capital Bern and in accordance with former classmates went to school ski excursions in the Alps, has already assembled a ski resort.
Thus far, just two North Korean athletes have qualified for the Games: figure-skating pair Ryom Tae Ok along with Kim Ju Sik, whose patterns are set to music from The Beatles and Ginette Reno’s “Je ne suis qu`une chanson.”
An IOC official said other people may be eligible for cross-country skiing, and perhaps accelerate hockey and biathlon, a combination of shooting and skiing.
Even if they don’t, Games organising committee leader Lee Hee-beom advised Reuters athletes might be invited to compete – a more common Olympics practice to encourage participation by underdogs, for instance athletes from a tropical nation in a winter sport. 1 famous instance brought a Jamaican bobsleigh team to Calgary in 1988. That prompted a film based on their exploits.
An additional problem for North Korea might be sanctions. In March last year, the U.N. Security Council included “recreational sports equipment” into a listing of luxury goods banned from export into the nation. North Korea’s National Sports Guidance Committee has accused Washington of working with the United Nations to extend “its tentacles deep into the area of sports”
After the North Korean hockey team arrived in New Zealand last April to the World Championships, the sport’s global body ordered to equip them with 50 fresh sticks that it would not be possible to export into the Northand also a New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation official said.
The team passed back the sticks at the airport on their way home, also a New Zealand Customs Service spokeswoman said.
Composing by Mark Bendeich; Developed by Sara Ledwith