Source: Here's What Happens to NK Athletes Who Fail to Win 1st Place


During the Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea these past few weeks, the media has been falling all over themselves to report how great the North Koreans are — in particular, dictator Kim Jong Un’s sister, who emerged as the media darling of the Olympics.

Even when the media reports on the North Korean athletes, however, they somehow fail to mention what typically happens to Pyongyang’s teams that fail to perform up to snuff on the world stage.

Let’s just say it’s not exactly losing out on endorsement deals.

The most infamous example of what happens to North Korean athletes is the 1966 World Cup team.

As the U.K. Sun notes, one of the defectors described what North Korean founder Kim Il Sung did to the team after it lost 5-3 to Portugal, days after its players were seen drinking on the town with local women.

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“Instead of going home to a proud welcome, they are reported to have been sent to one of the reclusive nation’s most notorious gulags,” the Sun noted.

“North Korean defector Kang Chol Hwan claims he met some of the team while they were being held in Yodok prison, or Camp 15, usually reserved for political prisoners.”

One member of the team became notable for his ability to endure torture, while another was dubbed “the cockroach” for eating anything and everything he came upon, including the titular insect.

Things were a little less horrifying — but still despicably bad — under the regime of Kim Jong Il, the founder’s son.

Do you think these North Korean athletes are in serious trouble for their performance at the Olympics?

After being knocked out in rather humiliating fashion during the 2010 World Cup, members of the squad “were given a marathon public reprimand after losing all three of their World Cup matches, including a 0-7 rout at the hands of Portugal that has been blamed on leader Kim Jong Il’s inept orders,” South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo reported.

Members of “the team were made to stand on a stage at the People’s Palace of Culture on July 2, just three days after they returned from South Africa, and subjected to ideological criticism for six hours. The team’s two Japanese-born players, Jong Tae Se and An Yong Yak, were exempt from the session.”

“Around 400 officials including the vice minister of the Workers’ Party, Sports Minister Pak Myong Chol, other athletes and sport students were apparently part of the audience. Ri Dong Kyu, a sports commentator for the North’s state-run Korean Central TV, pointed out the mistakes of each player.”

Sounds like fun. Meanwhile, in the U.S., our squad didn’t even make this year’s World Cup in an embarrassing qualifying performance. All they had to listen to, most likely, was a verbal tongue-lashing from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith about how they were TERR-ri-BLE, how they were HORR-ri-BLE.

(How-EV-ER, they could have just turned off ESPN any time they wanted to, as viewers are wont to do.)

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So, how should Pyongyang’s athletes feel about going back this year?

Well, how’s this for a headline from Yahoo Sports: “North Korean Olympians have been terrible; how will Kim Jong Un fix that?”

As of Tuesday, they’ve won zero medals and have embarrassed themselves in the process.

Unfortunately, I think we know how that can be “fixed” by Kim.

The only good thing that can come out of the West eating up the rebarbative “charm offensive” that the North Koreans have put on in Pyeongchang this year is that the “crazy fat kid” in charge might actually spare his athletes so as to not waste any of the goodwill he’s built up.

At least the athletes had better hope so. As the U.K. Daily Mail points out, the athletes are under 24-hour guard at the games to stop them from defecting from the utopia where they could be thrown in the gulag simply for not performing up to Dear Leader’s standards.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture