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London 2012: North Korean state media says locals 'delighted' with medal success

The Korean Central News Agency has devoted more content to public reaction than it has to news of its athletes’ successes.

North Korea's An Kum Ae celebrates taking gold in her judo category.
North Korea's An Kum Ae celebrates taking gold in her judo category.
Image: Paul Sancya/AP

NORTH KOREA is currently rubbing shoulders with the world’s biggest and best at the Olympic games – standing a lofty fourth in the medals table after three days of events in London.

The secretive Asian state is behind only China, the United States and France – who themselves are buoyed by their shock successes in the pool – in the medals table, having taken two golds and a bronze in weightlifting, as well as a gold in judo.

The Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang’s official news outlet, was austere in describing its judo champion’s success, devoting a mere three paragraphs to An Kum Ae’s victory in the women’s 52kg class.

Funnily enough, while An had “snubbed” opponents from Britain, Japan and France in her route to the semi-final, and had “trounced” an Italian to reach the final, she merely “beat” her rival from Cuba – one of North Korea’s few international allies – to win her final on Sunday.

A similarly reserved description was offered to describe Om Yun Chol’s gold in the men’s 56kg weightlifting category, without the emotive conquering language used to describe his compatriot’s earlier success.

“He lifted 125 kg and 168 kg respectively in snatch and clean-and-jerk events by combining various techniques including quick snatch and fast lifting,” the KCNA said. “He set a new Olympic record in the clean-and-jerk.”

“Meanwhile, Ryang Chun Hwa took the third place in the women’s weight-lifting 48kg category,” it added, almost as an afterthought.

But in contrast to the reserved description offered of its athletes successes, the KNCA went all-out to describe the public outpouring of glee that the wins had prompted.

“The news that DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] athletes bagged two gold and one bronze medals in two days after the start of the London Olympic Games has delighted local people,” it trumpeted.

Kwon In Guk, a coach of the Jangsan Sports Team, told KCNA:

“A Korean proverb says that a good beginning makes a good ending. DPRK athletes made a good start as they won two gold medals in 24 hours in the Olympiad.

In a piece that was longer than the two collective sports reports, the KCNA quoted Kim Chon Sok, a department director at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

“All my family burst out into cheers when hearing the news about Olympiad,” Kim revealed.

Some evil-minded foreign media asserted that the DPRK would take only one silver medal, but our sportspersons refuted such assertion with good results.

He added:

The hostile forces had better try hard to get a correct understanding of the DPRK.

The KCNA rarely gives space to sporting coverage, and last mentioned a national sporting endeavour after the side’s plucky 2-1 defeat to Brazil in its opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

“From the outset of the match the two teams fought a see-saw battle,” it wrote at the time. “The DPRK footballers created good shooting chances, not losing their confidence even after losing two goals.

“At about the 88th minute of the match Jong Tae Se headed the ball before passing it to Ji Yun Nam who powerfully kicked it into the rival’s goalmouth, scoring a goal.

“The DPRK team will meet its Portuguese rival on June 21.”

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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