12:16 am - 08/06/2012

What Happens When North Korean Olympians Lose?


One might understand U.S. gymnast Jordyn Wieber's heartbreak when she failed to qualify for the finals or commiserate with the angry tears of South Korean fencer Shin A-lam after a faulty clock dashed her dreams. But things could be a lot worse. What happens to North Korean athletes when they fail to bring home the gold?

ABC reported on Thursday that the state offers a carrot-and-stick approach to the Olympic Games; athletes can look forward to refrigerators, cars, and televisions when they win, and labor camp when they lose.

The rumors are unconfirmed, but ABC writes that "review meetings" after competitions often result in athletes' expulsion from their sports organizations and assigned time in labor camps. North Korean Olympians going up against rival countries like the U.S. and South Korea have even more cause for concern.

Yikes! North Korean labor camp isn't a nice place. Defectors have described abysmal conditions and horrors such as torture, executions, and starvation. Human Rights Watch estimates about 200,000 people could be held in such camps, where prisoners are often forced to do "difficult physical labor such as mining, logging, and agricultural work ... with rudimentary tools in dangerous and harsh conditions."

So far, North Korea's performance at the Olympics presumably has been satisfactory. The Wall Street Journal reports that North Korea has had its best Olympics since the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. Except for a hiccup before the opening games in which the women's soccer team refused to take the field when officials mixed up their flag with that of South Korea, things are going well. Weightlifter Om Yun Chul made headlines when he won gold by lifting three times his own body weight, and North Korea currently ranks eighth overall with one bronze and four gold medals.

Fans at home are watching. The WSJ reports that North Koreans are permitted five hours of Olympics coverage a day. That is, of course, for those who have televisions. Given the country's apparent inability to feed its own people, that luxury may be reserved for previous Games' luckier athletes.

Source: HuffingtonPost 
unlickdbearwhlp 6th-Aug-2012 06:04 am (UTC)
I wouldn't put it past the gov't, but I hope this new regime is easing up, even if it's slight. I want this article to be dead wrong.
xiahjunsubias 6th-Aug-2012 06:21 am (UTC)
"North Korean labor camp isn't a nice place."

Understatement of the century!
deerlike 6th-Aug-2012 01:15 pm (UTC)
Yeah, seriously.
lonelymoon 6th-Aug-2012 06:36 am (UTC)
Ugh, why would anyone want to become an Olympian then? It's hard enough going up there to get medals against the best athletes in the world, but doing so with poor training from a closed-off regime that can't bring in the best coaches for their priso- I mean athletes, but to get sent to labor camp when almost inevitably, they lose?
scubajr 6th-Aug-2012 06:55 am (UTC)
Maybe they don't know what they are really getting into? I would believe that the NK government keeps everything hush hush.
lee_chikin 6th-Aug-2012 08:58 am (UTC)
I'm reminded of the Hunger Games tbh...
erisinia 6th-Aug-2012 06:43 am (UTC)
there needs to be a term other than 'labor camp' or 'concentration camp'. neither if them seems accurrate.
izabera 6th-Aug-2012 12:51 pm (UTC)
This reminds me of the Iraqi soccer players who were tortured when they came home after failing to progress in the world cup.
noneko 6th-Aug-2012 12:58 pm (UTC)
I think this same worry came up when North Korea got trounced in the world cup.
ceecile 6th-Aug-2012 03:49 pm (UTC)
I don't even think they could retire freely afterwards. NK refugee mentioned that once you sign up on something of this level (national entertainers) you sign up for life.
dalpaengee 6th-Aug-2012 11:17 pm (UTC)
this is a shitty article
uledy 6th-Aug-2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
lol it's HuffPost, I have zero expectations from them XD
dalpaengee 6th-Aug-2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
very true! i'm just getting tired of all these crappy article about north korea that dont really say anything worthwhile, you know?
uledy 6th-Aug-2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
i feel you. most articles are pure conjecture or simply seek sensationalize the otherness of north korea. i do find articles that discuss the socioeconomic issues that defectors in china and sk face interesting, though. i debated whether or not to even post this article (seems like i made the wrong choice -_-)
dalpaengee 7th-Aug-2012 12:08 am (UTC)
yeah stuff about actual defectors and real info is interesting, i think. there's been a lot of articles like this recently, like over the past year, that don't say a lot, but i guess just keep nk in the public eye in the us? and im not sure how i feel about it yet...then again i wouldn't really expect anything more than this to come from huffpost lol
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