Even if you’re not all that fond of following the news, you’ll know that North Korea and South Korea aren’t singing songs around the campfire together.
I’m not going to go down the long list of reasons why, I think we’re on the same page here.
So if you want proof of the Olympic spirit working its magic look no further than these pictures, South Korean Lee Eun-Ju and North Korea’s Hong Un Jong setting aside their differences for a few snaps.
First a little background from BP:
Lee Eun-Ju is just 17 years old while her opponent is already an Olympic champion…The two were seen chatting and laughing together as they prepared to compete in the qualification for the artistic women’s gymnastics. Luckily, photographers were there to capture the moment when Lee Eun-Ju held her mobile phone with one hand and formed the peace sign with the other.
A Korean pulling a peace sign ain’t news, but for this selfie we’ll make an exception:
As the pictures spread across social media, many wondered whether Hong Un Jong would be in trouble when she arrived back in the country. According to the BBC, she should be just fine:
Claiming that Hong will face the firing squad or a life of hard labour for her selfie with Lee Eun-ju ignores the fact that she was also photographed in 2014 hugging American gymnast Simone Biles at an international competition.
You might think that by embracing an athlete of country described as a “sworn enemy”, Hong Un Jong would have incurred censure and not be permitted to participate in the Rio games.
But that didn’t happen.
It’s actually around 25 years since the last reports of North Korean athletes facing harsh penalties, like jail or execution, for failing to win or perform well at international competitions.
The most famous recent example of people fearing for North Korean sportsmen and women was in 2010, when their football team returned from the World Cup having lost all three matches, conceding 12 goals and scoring just one.
Turns out those fears were largely unfounded:
The World Cup team members were brought to a meeting of athletes, coaches and sports officials where they were several criticised for their failure to win.
The coach, like any other DPRK senior official, was sent away to do construction for a few months before returning to a lower level position in the DPRK Football Association.
The team and the coach were treated like any other group of DPRK officials who didn’t perform well. While certainly uncomfortable and jarring to one’s self-esteem, these penalties are certainly preferable to being sent away to a prison or being executed.
This was an isolated recent case of what happens to DPRK athletes who don’t succeed during competition.
The reality is, the worst that usually happens to athletes who fail to place or win at competitions is that North Korean state media doesn’t mention them.
Brush it under the carpet propaganda machine, kinda like the SABC and those protests…
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