Tag Archive | "sports"

What Do North Koreans Do for Fun?

By Rose Kwak

It is hard to picture what North Koreans do for fun in a country notoriously known for human rights violations against its people, where seventy percent of the population is food insecure and its people are constantly indoctrinated by the state.  However, despite many bleak and dark images surrounding North Korea, many North Koreans enjoy various forms of entertainment—ranging from taking families to dolphiariums in Pyongyang to inviting friends over for karaoke.

Behind closed doors, many North Koreans also take pleasure in watching South Korean dramas and movies, which is prohibited by the state but easily accessible through video recorders and CDs in black markets. While recreational activities and access to these entertainment venues is largely dependent on socio-economic class and regions, South Korean media is consumed by North Koreans across a wide range of socio-economic gradients. The following are types of entertainment cultures thus far known in North Korea.

Amusement parks and entertainment venues:

Since Kim Jong-Un came into power, Kim has been working toward “improving the lives of his fellow millennials” and has ordered constructions of various entertainment venues. There are quite a number of other large amusement parks across the city such as Kaeson Youth Park and Manyongdae Fun Fair, to name a few. In a power-starved country where the satellites reveal pitch black images by night, Kaeson Youth Park facilities are lit like “Times Square.” Kaeson Youth Park covers more than 400,000 square meters and holds various rides for families and friends to enjoy. Munsu Water Park is another recreational park for families and it includes about 26 pools. The Mirim Riding Club offers horse-back riding for eight dollars per hour outdoors and ten dollars per hour indoors.

In 2012, Rungra People’s Pleasure Ground was opened to the public by Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju at the opening ceremony. Rungra People’s Pleasure Ground offers exciting and varying options for family entertainment including a dolphinarium, water parks and a mini-golf course. There are also ice-skating rinks and ski resorts for those who could afford. Generally, these amusement parks and grounds are reserved for the ten percent of North Korea’s elites.

Drinking, Dining and Dating Culture:

When it comes down to dating and sex, North Koreans are extremely conservative. Dating is strictly forbidden on university campuses, albeit many young couples find a way to go on dates and to enjoy each other’s company. Outside of campus grounds, many young couples go to restaurants that serve tasty meat or go to jangmadang (markets) to shop for small goods, as well as to visit a nearby mountain trail, river side or beach. While average North Koreans cannot afford luxury items, in recent years, many North Korean couples have started to wear matching tokens or jewelry like the South Korean counterparts. Social clubs are another way in which young women and men meet one another. During holidays, social clubs are hosted for masses and dance parties take place in various places such as Kim Il-Sung Square.  Because North Korean men go to military for ten years after high school, most serious romantic relationships develop in the late twenties, often times through blind dates set up through relatives and close friends.

In recent years, there seems to be an increase in demand for restaurants and bars. For average North Koreans, meals usually consist rice and a few side dishes. However, the elite few in Pyongyang tend to revel in lifestyles that poses stark contrast with those of the rest. One journalist reflecting upon this flashy lifestyle explained that this small privileged class known as the “donju”(translated as “masters of money”) are living a cosmopolitan life in “Pyonghattan.” They would spend ten to fifteen euros equivalent per meal to indulge in expensive prime steak or Wiener schnitzel and wear clothes from brands like Zara and H&M.

Another prominent aspect of North Korean recreational life is “eumjugamu.” “Eumjugamu” in Korean is a combined word for “drinking, music, and dancing.” While most North Koreans can’t afford hard liquor like tequila, about eighty to ninety percent of North Korean men drink on daily basis. Average North Koreans drink state-produced alcohol such as Yangdok-sul or Taedonggang beer. Many North Koreans in the countryside brew their own beer with corn or fruits (known as nongtaegi) despite the fact that this is illegal. Unlike their South Korea counterparts, house parties are also fairly common in North Korea. Wealthier elites have karaoke machines to enjoy.

South Korean media consumption:

Consumption of South Korean media is a form of entertainment not just exclusively reserved for the elites. The reason is that many North Koreans are able to obtain video recorders and DVDs illegally through black markets. Especially in Chinese bordering provinces like North Hamgyong, people are able to watch South Korean broadcasts through their television. In other areas, North Koreans are able to obtain South Korean entertainment CDs and DVDs. A defector who lived in Yanggang Province explained that people rent CDs that contain popular South Korean dramas. Many North Koreans also watch South Korean dramas through video recorders that are sold by Chinese merchants or at black markets. Within trusted circles of friends or relatives, many even watch dramas together. The impact of South Korean media consumption is great enough to have affected people’s lingo as North Koreans began to adopt words only used in South Korea.

According to an InterMedia survey of North Korean refugees, approximately 33 percent of North Korean defectors claimed that they had access to and listened to foreign radio. About 47 percent were able to obtain free-tuning radio from the black market and about 23 percent through Chinese merchants. A survey of North Korean defectors revealed that approximately 98 percent of USB owners kept South Korean dramas and/or music. Through “passive dissemination” and “inter-personal distribution,” South Korean TV is becoming rather popular in North Korea.

Kim Jong-un recently launched a North Korean Netflix-style service called Manbang that enables people to re-watch documentaries about their leaders as well as to learn Russian and English. Manbang supposedly offers five channels that show state-sanctioned news and educational programs.

Rose Kwak is an intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America and a graduate of Davidson College in North Carolina. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Stefan Krasowski’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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2017 Baseball Preview: South Koreans in Major League Baseball

By Troy Stangarone

With opening day less than two weeks away, we continue our look at South Koreans playing baseball professionally in the United States in the major leagues and the minor leagues. Last season saw a significant influx of new talent from Korea into Major League Baseball (MLB). This season, that is unlikely to be the case. Only Hwang Jae-gyun, a non-roster invitee for the San Francisco Giants who we profiled in our minor league preview, is in a position to make a major league roster out of spring training.

After a tough 2016 for Koreans in MLB, players such as Choo Shin-soo and Ryu Hyun-jin will be looking to come back after an injury-marred season, while Park Byung-ho and Choi Ji-man will be looking to put difficult seasons behind them and try to establish themselves as permanent fixtures in the major leagues. The following is a look brief look at each player’s 2016 and prospects for the new season.

Choo Shin-soo
OF/DH, Texas Rangers

Perhaps the most well-known of the Korean stars in MLB, Choo suffered through an injury-marred 2016 that saw him spend time on the disabled list due to a fracture in his left arm, a strained calf and hamstring, as well as lower back issues. As a result, Choo only played in 48 games, hitting .248 for the year with 7 home runs and 6 stolen bases. As Choo looks to bounce back, look for the Rangers to play Choo less in the outfield and to get more time at DH. Limiting his exposure to the field will help to keep his bat in the lineup and create playing time for Delino DeShields, Jr. and Jurikson Profar, who are both playing well in the spring. If Choo is able to stay healthy, projections have him hitting in the .260-.270 range and getting back to mid-high teens in home runs.

Ryu Hyun-jin
SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Ryu Hyun-jin was stellar in his transition to the majors in 2013 and followed it up with a strong 2014 season in which he won 14 games, struck out over eight batters per nine innings, and had a 3.38 ERA. That season he was worth 3.8 WAR (wins above a replacement level player). Then shoulder troubles hit and he missed all of the 2015 season and only made one start in 2016. Now healthy, Ryu is looking to regain his spot in the Dodgers’ rotation, but is unlikely to start the season in the rotation due to the Dodgers starting pitching depth and a fastball that is only averaging around 87 mph so far this spring. However, if he can maintain his health and get his velocity back up to his pre-injury average of just over 91 mph he should be able to return to form.

Kang Jung-ho
3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

Setting aside doubts about the ability of his game to translate in the major leagues, Kang Jung-ho had a strong rookie campaign in 2015 hitting .287 with 15 home runs for a 3.9 WAR season. Much like Choo and Ryu, Kang began 2016 with a knee injury and only played in 103 games, but boosted his power for 21 home runs in his return. Kang has proven he can hit in the majors, but his off-the-field behavior is marring the beginning of his 2017 season. In December, he was arrested for his 3rd DUI in Korea and received an eight month suspended sentence. At the moment, he is still in South Korea waiting for his new work visa to be approved and there is no timetable for his return to the United States. Once he is able to return to the Pirates, Kang is projected to again hit in the .260-.270 range with a home run total in the high teens to low twenties and be for close to 3 WAR. While Kang is an offensive plus for the Pirates his position, the weak contact he makes on balls on the ground could put pressure on his batting average.

Kim Hyun-soo
OF, Baltimore Orioles

After a rough spring training where the Orioles tried to convince Kim Hyun-soo to go to the minors to work on his swing, Kim put together a productive season hitting .302 with 6 home runs in 92 games. Kim’s strengths from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) seemed to translate to the majors where he had a good walk to strike out ratio, as well as above league average exit velocity on batted balls. That has led to a good on base percentage and could put him in line to hit leadoff for the Orioles this year. One challenge for Kim as he enters his second season in the majors is to try and increase his fly ball rate as he currently hits more ground balls than the league average at the moment. If he can gain more loft he has the potential for 15 home runs.

Oh Seung-hwan
P, St. Louis Cardinals

In his first season in the majors, “The Final Boss” became just that as he took over closing duties for the St. Louis Cardinals shortly after they removed Trever Rosenthal from the closers role in late June. Much as he had done previously in Korea and Japan, Oh dominated from there on out picking up 19 saves to go along with a 1.92 ERA and 11.6 strike outs per nine innings.  Coming into 2017 Oh is firmly entrenched in his role as Cardinal’s closer and should dominate again. Projections coming into the season have him largely maintaining his strikeout to walks ratio, with only a slight regression on his ERA likely into the low-to-mid twos.

Park Byung-ho
1B/DH, Minnesota Twins

After staring in the KBO, Park Byung-ho hoped to become one of MLB’s leading sluggers. However, he struggled with his transition to the United States last season. After hitting only .191 and striking out in nearly 33 percent of his at bats, Park was optioned to the minors where he continued to struggle before his season ended due to an injury he suffered to his right middle finger that required surgery. The injury had bothered him much of the season and may have impacted his performance. Though the power remained as he did hit 12 home runs. However, his struggles last season led to Park being waived off the major league roster during the offseason and have left him fighting for a job this spring. Park is playing better this spring, hitting .361 with 4 home runs, but he is striking out at close to the same rate as last season. If he is going to avoid significant time in the minors this season he’s going to need to keep the strikeouts under control and improve his batting average.

Choi Ji-man
1B/OF, New York Yankees

Similar to Choo Shin-soo, Choi Ji-man has worked his way from the minors to the majors. Choi has always had good swing and plate discipline, but his power has decreased since being suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. He struggled in his first taste of the majors last year hitting .170 with 5 home runs. Now with the New York Yankees, he’ll likely serve as minor league depth with Greg Bird, Chris Carter, and Austin Tyler likely to get the majority of the playing time.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director for Congressional Affairs and Trade at the Korea Economic Institute of America.  The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Image created by Juni Kim, Program Manager and Executive Assistant at the Korea Economic Institute of America, with photos from Keith Allison’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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2017 Baseball Preview: South Korean Minor League Prospects

By Troy Stangarone and Christopher Hurst

Last season, a record setting five South Koreans made their professional debuts in Major League Baseball (MLB). They joined established stars such as Choi Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers and Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not all of last year’s rookie class transitioned to the majors as well as Choi and Ryu did, but Oh Seung-hwan, “The Final Boss,” ended the season strong as the St. Louis Cardinal’s closer.

As teams continue to look overseas for talent they have also looked to South Korea for prospects, signing players before they enter the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). The following is a look at the three South Koreans signed by the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees, as well as established KBO star Hwang Jae-gyun who signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants but has a good chance of making the team out of spring training.

Park Hyo Jun
SS, New York Yankees

Park Hyo Jun is one of the younger Korean player in the minor leagues and has never actually played professionally in Korea. Signed by the New York Yankees for $1.2 million at the age of 18, he made his professional debut with the rookie development league Pulaski Yankees in 2015. He did well enough in Pulaski to be promoted to Class A ball with the Charleston River Dogs in 2016. Known as an athletic shortstop with a strong arm, Park has also spent some time at second base because of the surplus of shortstop prospects in the Yankee system. During the 2016 season he batted .225 with an on .336 OBP. One reason for his low batting average are the 120 strikeout he accumulated at the plate. However, when Park gets on base, pitchers need to pay attention as he stole 32 bases out of 35 attempts last year. Coaches this year are focusing on him using more of his lower body on defense and becoming more patient at the plate. Currently he is expected return back to Charleston at the end of spring training, though there are plenty of trade rumors with the Yankees glut of strong shortstops in the minor leagues.

Hwang Jae-gyun
3B, San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants signed the 10 year KBO veteran Hwang Jae-gyun to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training this past winter. As part of his preparation for the MLB last year, Hwang had to learn how to control one of the most exciting parts of his game; his ability to flip a bat. Hwang become a minor YouTube celebrity in the summer of 2015 with this epic flip. Knowing that he wanted to play in the majors Hwang stopped the bat flips and brought the focus back to his power last year. He hit 26 homeruns while batting .330 for the Lotte Giants. This spring he is batting .313 with 2 homeruns in 16 Catcus League at bats. Hwang will have to continue to show the same power that made him feared in the KBO if he wants to make the Giants roster. He is currently seen as potential pinch hitter/backup utility infielder. If Hwang doesn’t make it on the 25 man roster with the S.F. Giants, he has said he will consider joining their minor league club. However, a bigger paycheck in the Japanese Nippon league might call him away from his MLB dream.

Kwan Kwang-min
OF/1B, Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs signed Kwan Kwang-min out of Jangchung High School in Seoul as part of their 2015 July 2 international free agent class for $1.2 million. The 19 year old Kwan is the most recent Cubs signee from Korea, a market where they have been relatively active. The left handed Kwan is an athletic outfielder with speed, raw power, and a good work ethic, but at 6’2’’ and 210 lbs he may be destined for first base. If that is the case, it will increase the pressure on his bat. While Kwan has a good feel for the strike zone, he has had difficulty making contact so far in his career. In 2016, he only played nine games for the Cubs Arizona league team and struck out in just shy of 30 percent of his at bats. Though this is an admittedly small sample size, the Cubs are working with Kwan on cutting down on his swing to help him get to that power more often. Look for Kwan to stay in extended spring training to continue to work on his swing and get additional playing time in the Arizona league later this summer.

Son Ho-young
P, Chicago Cubs

If Kwan Kwang-min is the Chicago Cubs power hitting prospect, the 21 year old Son Ho-young is their hard throwing Korean pitching prospect. Previously a promising shortstop, Son was signed as a speedy, defensively oriented prospect. After two seasons on the Cubs Arizona league team in and the rookie league team in Eugene, OR, his inability to hit resulted in his conversion to a pitcher to take advantage of his strong arm. It is still early in Son’s conversion to pitcher. He only pitched 3.1 innings for the Cubs Arizona league team last season, striking out three, but also giving up three runs. With Son already being 21, if he takes to pitching in the Arizona league this year, look for the Cubs to push him to their rookie league team in Eugene and perhaps further to accelerate his development.

Last season, Park Byung-ho of the Minnesota Twins and Choi Ji-man of the Los Angeles Angels won jobs out of spring training. Both struggled during their rookie seasons in the majors and are fighting for jobs this spring, and Choi is now with the New York Yankees. We’ll preview them in our upcoming look at South Koreans in the major leagues.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director for Congressional Affairs and Trade at the Korea Economic Institute of America. Christopher Hurst was previously an intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America and is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. The views expressed here are the authors’ alone.

Photo from Dave R’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Which South Korean Stars from the 2017 Asian Games Might Break Out at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang?

By Jennifer Cho and Patrick Niceforo

South Korea finished second overall with 50 medals at the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo and Obihiro, Japan. In 2018, South Korea will host the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and, according to Gracenote’s sports data, is predicted to place 8th overall with 10 medals. Below, find our list of athletes to watch for in Pyeongchang.

Speed Skating

Lee Sang-hwa, the gold medalist from both 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, recently won a silver medal in 500m at the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo. She holds the current world record in women’s 500m with the time of 36.36 seconds. With the recovery of her right calf muscle, she is expected to be a three-time Olympic champion in 500m speed skating.

Lee Seung-hoon, a former short track speed skater, converted to long track in September 2009 and became the first Asian man to win a gold medal in men’s 10,000m and a silver medal in men’s 5,000m the at 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. At the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, he won four gold medals in men’s 5,000m, 10,000m, mass start, and team pursuits, overcoming his knee injury. He is expected to win medals in 5,000m and 1,000m in Pyeongchang 2018.

Short Track Speed Skating

Shim Suk-hee won a bronze medal in women’s 1,000m, a silver medal in 1,500m, and a gold medal in the 3,000m relay at 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Recently, she claimed two gold medals in the 1,000m and in the 3,000m relay and a silver medal in the 1,500m in Sapporo. The 2017 Winter Asian Games reaffirmed her status as a future medalist in short track speed skating at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Lee Jung-su was a two time Olympic champion in the 1,000m and the 1,500m at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. At the 2017 Winter Asian Games in Sapporo, he won a silver medal in the 5,000m relay and a bronze medal in the 1,500m. As a captain of Korean short track speed skating team, his strategy in the 1,500m led Seo Yi-ra to win the gold medal in the race. He supported his teammates throughout the Winter Games. His leadership will strengthen the Korean short track team at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Figure Skating

Seventeen-year old Choi Da-bin took home the gold for women’s singles in Sapporo. She was originally ineligible to compete since she placed 5th at a national trial in October of last year. However, Choi became eligible to compete after fellow figure skaters Kim Na-hyun and Park So-youn dropped out. Choi, who has been dubbed “the next Kim Yuna,” competes next at the ISU World Skating Championship in Finland. If Choi places at least in the top 10, South Korea will be eligible for two spots in women’s singles in Pyeongchang.

Snowboarding

At the end of 2016, Lee Sang-ho placed fourth in parallel giant slalom at the International Ski Federation Snowboard World Cup in Italy, a national record for South Korea. Buoyed by his success, Lee expressed optimism about taking home a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics. He later claimed the first gold of the 2017 Asian Winter Games in men’s giant slalom and another gold in men’s slalom. If Lee maintains his momentum, South Korea could potentially claim its first Winter Olympics gold medal in a non-skating related event.

Ice Hockey

The men’s ice hockey team earned silver at Sapporo, their highest placement yet at the Asian Winter Games. The team includes forward Park Woo-sang, a three-time Asia League champion, and several naturalized citizens such as goaltender Matt Dalton. Dalton is Canadian-born and was formerly signed with the Boston Bruins. The team is coached by Jim Paek, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the first ever Korean-born NHL player. Coach Paek will lead South Korea in its first ever Olympic hockey qualification in Pyeongchang.

Jennifer Cho is a graduate of Kalamazoo College and an intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI). Patrick Niceforo is a graduate student at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and an intern at KEI. The views expressed here are the authors’ alone.

Image created by Sang Kim, Director of Public Affairs and Intern Coordinator at KEI.

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South Korea and the 2017 World Baseball Classic

By Troy Stangarone

Much like soccer’s World Cup, the World Baseball Classic brings together national teams from around the world in an international tournament to compete for being the world’s best. Since the tournament began in 2006, South Korea has been one of the world’s best teams, taking part in each World Baseball Classic to date and finishing in second place in 2009. How do South Korea’s chances look in the 2017 tournament?

As South Korea kicks off this year’s tournament in the opening game against Israel, the 2017 team will be led by World Baseball Classic (WBC) veteran and St. Louis Cardinals’ closer, Oh Seung-hwan,  also known as the “The Final Boss.” He will be joined by a collection of all-stars from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), but not by the other Korean born players in Major League Baseball (MLB). South Korea will be without prior WBC stars such as Choo Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers and Kim Hyun-soo of the Baltimore Orioles, who are focused on spring training, as well as Park Byung-ho of the Minnesota Twins who is trying to reestablish himself in the majors, Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers who is recovering from injuries, and Kang Jang-ho of the Pittsburgh Pirates who is dealing with legal issues related to drunk driving.

It is not unusual for players in MLB to focus on Spring Training rather than take part in the WBC. Choo last played for Korea in 2009 and new players tend to break out each tournament such has Kim Hyun-soo did that same year when he hit over .500. Some players who may become new stars for South Korea at the 2017 WBC include:

Choi Hyung-woo:  A power hitting leftfielder who was a KBO all-star in 2016 and runner up in the MVP race. He has averaged over 30 home runs in the last four years in the KBO and looks to be a major piece of Korea’s offense in the 2017 tournament.

Lee Dae-ho: Lee provides South Korea with another power bat and prior experience playing both in Japan and MLB with the Seattle Mariners. While Lee spent only one season with the Mariners, he hit 14 home runs in part-time play and should be a force in Korea’s lineup having hit .345 in the last two Word Baseball Classics.

Seo Geon-chang:  One of Korea’s more talented infielders, Seo is a potential dynamic player for South Korea. He combines speed and moderate power as part of his game. In his 2014 KBO MVP season, he became the first player in KBO history to reach 200 hits in a season and also holds the single season records for runs scored and triples.

Jang Won-jun: Jang is one of two starters that South Korea is likely to lean on during the tournament. An all-star in 2016 who posted a 3.32 ERA, Jang is one of the better pitchers in the KBO. The lefthander features a fastball, slider, and change up.

Yang Hyeon-jong: Another lefthander, Yang will team with Jang Won-jun to give South Korea two strong starters at the top of their rotation. Yang is viewed as having the ability to be a number 3 starter in MLB and features a four pitch arsenal that includes a fastball that averages 92-95.

Beyond the South Korean national team, this World Baseball Classic will be special for South Korea as it will serve as one of the host nations for opening round play for the first time. While the KBO was only founded in 1982, baseball has continued to grow in popularity in South Korea, especially among the young and women. Hosting Group A play in the new Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea’s first enclosed stadium, will allow South Koreans to cheer on the national team as they take on Israel, the Netherlands, and Taiwan. Likely helping to continue driving the popularity of the game in South Korea.

What are South Korea’s chances in the WBC? Despite having moved out of the group stage in all but the last WBC, South Korea is projected to have a lower wins above replacement (WAR) total than two of its group stage competitors in Israel and the Netherlands. However, home field should give South Korea an advantage in group play and if South Korea is able to get a lead “The Final Boss” will be anchoring a bullpen that is projected to be better than all of its group stage competitors other than the Netherlands.

While South Korea’s roster may seem weaker than in years past based on available metrics relative to its competition, it is difficult to judge the talent level of teams’ non-MLB players. But South Korea holds an advantage over its other group competitors in that the KBO is probably the strongest professional league outside of the United States and Japan, giving Team Korea depth to draw from. Additionally, having a wealth of major league talent has not always been the key to success in the tournament as the United States knows too well. Its 2006 team featured a collection of MLB stars in their prime including Chipper Jones, Chase Utley, Vernon Wells, Matt Holiday, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Derek Jeter. That team finished 8th and was knocked out of the tournament in the second round.

However South Korea’s team performs, expect the Sky Dome to be rocking and for there to be lots of thunder sticks involved as South Koreans root on their team.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director for Congressional Affairs and Trade at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Charlton Clemen’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons. 

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Sports in North Korea

By Caleb Cho

According to a South Korean News Agency, Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of North Korea’s Worker’s Party Central Committee, was sent to Brazil along with 31 athletes for the Rio Olympic Games.  Given the fact that North Korea has been so isolated from international community for decades and the number of athletes representing North Korea is significantly smaller than that of South Korea, what would be the implication of presence of the state’s second most powerful person in Rio? What does sports mean in daily life of North Korea?

Popularity of Sports

In North Korea, the regime tries to draw the attention of the public to sports, propagating a slogan “Health is a great asset to the country!”. Especially, for most high school boys who are required to join the military after high school, sports is what they care about more than any other subject or their GPA. The most popular sports in North Korea include soccer, Taekwondo, gymnastics, boxing, and track & field. However, more recently basketball, has gained in popularity among the younger generations and is allegedly Kim Jong-un’s favorite sport. Generally speaking, North Koreans are more interested in sports related to national defense than those related to leisure or entertainment.

The regime proactively uses sports to inspire national pride and to release dissatisfaction of the public that originated from the economic downturns since the mid-1990s. The state gives some honors and rewards to players and coaches who get medals in international sports games. For example, gold medalists in World Championships or Olympic Games can receive a luxury car and an apartment with highest honor in sports, and are even praised as national heroes who boost the statue of the state in the world. They are also used in the state’s propaganda to demonstrate the “superiority” of its communism social system and to gain loyalty for the regime.

Jong Song Ok by Uri Tour's

National hero in North Korea: Jong Song-ok. Photo from Uri Tour’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

Jong Song-ok, who won the women’s marathon at the 1999 World Championships, and Kye Sun-hui, who won a gold medal in women’s Judo at an Olympic and four golds in a row at World Championships are among those examples of the state’s use of athletes for propaganda. Television dramas and movies inspired by their stories were made in North Korea.

One of the most interesting facts regarding North Korean sports is that most of athletics who have gained medals in major sporting events are female. Compared to the performance of male athletes, achievements that North Korea’s female athletics have made in some sports areas such as weightlifting, soccer, and judo are somewhat miraculous given the outdated sports infrastructure and technology in North Korea.

Sports in Media

Sports, just like all other sectors in North Korea, are subject to the propaganda of the state where everything is served for the regime and freedom of the press is absent. It may be natural for the state media to selectively broadcast only those recorded games with wins and good performances. And, of course, live broadcasting is awfully rare to avoid national embarrassment. However, there have been exceptional cases of live broadcasts lately in North Korea as the number of athletes who win a prize in international sporting events is getting less and less and often times entering the tournament itself is an inspiration for North Korea. However, there is a downside to live broadcasts. North Korea aired its World Cup soccer match with Portugal live during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where the state’s football team was defeated 7-0 by Portugal. However, it was the first time North Korea made the World Cup since 1966.

Investment and Sports Marketing

North Korea has a system and the experience to do anything at full gallop for the purpose of showing off national power, so the best players nationwide are often gathered on a single team and receive training together for a long period of time. In case of soccer, the most popular sport in the country, there is a team called the “4.25 sports club” which recruits the nation’s best talented players in their early ages and sends them altogether as a whole team representing the nation for any international games. Even though there are several leagues and teams supported by each government sector, national league games, in general, lack of interest because of a distinct gap in skills between teams.

There is little known about North Korean leaders’ favorite sports, however, the regime seems to provide regular and systemic support in the areas of soccer, taekwondo, track & field, and boxing on an industrial scale. Also, while matches are broadcast in a handful of sports, the reality is that it is too difficult to fully watch a game to the end due to severe power shortages. For the young generations who like sports such as soccer or basketball, the best way is to watch video clips saved in CDs or memory sticks, which are often illegally bought and circulated through the black market by individuals who have visited or stayed foreign countries. That might be how the world’s sports superstars such as Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are also known to North Korean nationals.

In conclusion, North Korea puts its emphasis on several defense related sports and its investment is concentrated in a handful of areas according to the state’s purpose and interest. Sports is used as a tool of the regime’s propaganda to enhance its status in the world and to distract public discontent rising from economic failure. The access to modern sports information and technology is made mainly through a limited number of professional players and sports manias; on the other hand, it may take a long to realize the popularization of sports in North Korea due to the lack of necessary infrastructure in the state.

Caleb Cho is an intern with the Korea Economic Institute of America and a masters candidate in Economics at Tufts University. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Andrea Williams photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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South Korean Athletes to Watch in Rio

By Caleb Cho and Hojun Song

In London in 2012, the South Korean team walked away with 28 medals, placing them fifth in the medal count. This year, they are expected to rake in a similar number of medals, with the Peterson Institute’s Marcus Noland projecting they will capture 30. Below, find our list of the Korean athletes to watch for in Rio.

Archery

Women’s Archery Team Category (Sunday, August 7)

Women’s Archery Individual Category (Friday, August 12)

Ki Bo-Bae, who won the gold medal in both the women’s individual and team category at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, is an expected Olympic Champion this year. She is currently the top ranked archer in the world. Her teammates in Rio, Choi Mi-Sun and Chang Hye-Jin, have no Olympic experience, so it’s up to Ki to lead South Korea’s women’s archery team to South Korea’s eighth consecutive gold medal.

Badminton

Men’s Doubles (Friday, August 19)

The team of Lee Yong-dae and Yoo Yeon-seong are favorites for the gold medal in men’s doubles this year. Lee was a gold medalist in Mixed Doubles at the 2008 Olympics and bronze in 2012. The pair is going into this year’s competition ranked first in the world.

Boxing

Men’s Bantam 56kg (Wednesday, August 10)

Ham Sangmyeong is aiming to get on the medal stand in Rio. He won gold in the Men’s 56 kg Boxing at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, fourth in the 2015 AIBA Pro Boxing Championships, and is ranked third in the world by the organization.

Fencing

Women’s Sabre Individual Category (Monday, August 8)

Kim Ji-Yeon, the 2012 Olympic Champion in the women’s sabre individual fencing, is expected to win the gold medal this year as well. Kim was the first South Korean woman to win an Olympic gold medal in fencing. Shin A-Lam, who controversially lost to a German fencer after a timekeeping error extended bout time in the semifinals of the women’s individual épée at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, is expected to add one more medal for South Korea. The South Korean fencing team won a total of two gold medals, one silver medal, and three bronze medals in the 2012 London Summer Olympics, leaving them in good position for Rio.

Gymnastics

Men’s Vault and Floor Categories (Saturday, August 6)

Kim Han-sol placed fifth at the 2014 International Gymnastics Federation World Championships, and then sixth and eighth in vault and floor respectively in 2015. In Rio, he is expected to contend for bronze in those two categories.

Judo

Men’s 90kg (Wednesday, August 10)

Ranked second in the world, Gwak Dong-han won several medals in regional and world championship games in 2015, and was named “2015 Best Player” by the Korea Judo Association. He is expected to contend for gold in Rio.

Taekwondo

Women’s 57kg (Thursday, August 18)

Women’s 67kg (Friday, August 19)

Although taekwondo is originally a Korean martial art, South Korea only won a single gold medal and a silver medal at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. This year two female taekwondo practitioners will participate in the Olympics. Kim So-Hui is a two-time World Taekwondo Champion. It will be interesting to see whether she can defeat the Chinese champion, Wu Jingyu, in the Women’s 57kg at this year’s Olympics. Oh Hye-Ri is also expected to add a medal in the Women’s 67kg. In the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, all four Korean practitioners won gold medals.

Track and Field

Men’s Long Jump (Friday, August 12)

Kim Deok-hyeon is the top ranked Korean long jumper, and is currently ranked 11th in the world. He is hoping to capture a medal in Rio but faces tough competition.

Rhythmic Gymnastics

Women’s individual all-around (Friday, August 19)

Son Yeon-Jae, who ranked the fifth at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, aims to win a medal. She is the 2014 Asian Games All-around Champion and three-time (2016, 2015, 2013) Asian Championship All-around Champion. Because the Russian rhythmic gymnasts are allowed to participate in the Rio Olympics despite Russia’s doping scandal, Son Yeon-Jae will face tough competition and is expected to win the bronze medal.

Golf

Women’s Individual (Saturday, August 20)

Golf returns to the Olympics after a 112-year absence. Thanks to South Korea’s recent dominance in golf, four top-class woman golfers, Chun In-Gee, Park In-Bee, Yang Hee-Young, and Kim Sei-Young, are expected to be in contention for medals. South Korea is the only country sending four woman golfers to the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, all of whom are in the top 10 of the 2016 Olympic Golf Final Rankings.

Shooting

Women’s 25m Pistol (Tuesday, August 9)

South Korea won three gold medals and two silver medals in shooting events at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Kim Jang-mi, the Women’s 25 Meter Pistol Champion, is expected to achieve good results at the Rio Olympics as well.

Men’s 10m air pistol (Saturday, August 6)

Men’s 50m pistol (Wednesday, August 10)

Jin Jong-oh is far and away the favorite to cinch two gold medals in Rio. Holding World records in 50m pistol (2013), 10m air pistol (2015); Jin won the gold medal in the 50m pistol in 2008 and gold in the 10m air pistol and 50m pistol at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Table Tennis

Women’s Singles (Saturday, August 6)

Table Tennis is one of sports dominated by China. Since the 1999 Seoul Olympics, China has won 24 gold medals out of 28. However, it is remarkable that three of the remaining gold medals were captured by South Korea. This year Jeon Jihee, Suh Hyo-Won, and Yang Ha-Eun will do their best to stop China’s domination in this event.

Men’s Team (Friday, August 12)

Much like the women, the South Korean men’s table tennis team will have to contend with the dominant Chinese team to grab a medal in Rio. Joo Saehyuk has consistently ranked as one of the 40 best table tennis players in the world, and will attempt to lead his team to back-to-back silver medals.

Wrestling

Men’s Greco-Roman 75kg (Sunday, August 14)

Kim Hyeon-woo won gold in Men’s 66 kg wrestling in London, got a Grand Slam in Wrestling-Asia Championships in 2013, and finished first in the 2013 World Championships and at the 2014 Asian Games. He is a favorite to cinch the gold in Rio.

Caleb Cho and Hojun Song are interns with the Korea Economic Institute of America. Both are masters candidates at Tufts University. The views expressed here are the authors alone.

Posted in Culture, slider, South KoreaComments (1)

A Record Setting Five Koreans Debut in Major League Baseball

By Troy Stangarone

When most fans of Major League Baseball (MLB) think of players from the Pacific Rim, players imported from Japan’s professional league tend to come to mind. Whether it be Ichiro or for a period Dice “K” Matsuzaka, there have been a string of high profile players coming from Japan to the United States. That perception may be about to change. While more Japanese professionals have played in the major leagues, players from Korea are increasingly making their mark in MLB as well.

Because of the thriving professional leagues in Korea and Japan, a posting system remains in place that limits the flow of talent to the majors from Korea and Japan relative to what the overall level of talent in either country would warrant than in comparison from Latin America. This has begun to change somewhat in the last decade or so thanks in part to the success of players such as Ichiro and more recently to Koreans such as Choo Shin-soo with the Rangers and Ryu Hyun-jin with the Dodgers.

In the case of Korea, this all began with Park Chan-ho. Park became the first Korean to play in the major leagues when he briefly made his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994, but would go on to become a star once he had established himself in the majors by 1996. Park’s success helped to pave the way for other players from Korea to come to the United States, with a peak of 8 Koreans playing in the majors in 2005.

K Baseball Debuts Graphic

While the number of Koreans playing in MLB tailed off after 2005, the 2016 season has seen a resurgence in Koreans playing in the majors. Five Korean-born players have already made their debut this season and the number of Korean-born players on MLB rosters is again at an all-time high of eight. However, if prospects such as Lee Hak-ju of the San Francisco Giants make their debut this season, 2016 could represent a high-water mark for Koreans in Major League Baseball.

The following is a brief look at the five Korean-born players to have made their debut this season in the majors:

Park Byung-ho

The Minnesota Twins signed Park Byung-ho as a free agent after he was posted for transfer by his current team in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), the Nexen Heroes. Park brings tremendous power to the Twins lineup, as demonstrated by his stellar numbers in the last few seasons in the KBO. Since becoming a full-time player in the KBO in 2012, Park has averaged 43 home runs a season, including the last two seasons when he hit 52 and 53 home runs respectively. His power should show in the majors and through his first 12 games he has 4 home runs, but the question with Park will be if he can make sufficient contact. In his last two season in Korea he struck out 30 percent of the time, but still managed to hit over .300. In the early going this year the strikeouts are comparable to Korea, but his average is only .233 in the early going. If Park can find a way to hit in the .260-.270 range he could be a true force in MLB.

Oh Seung-hwan

Nicknamed “The Final Boss,” Oh Seung-hwan spent eleven seasons in the KBO and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization being just that. Dominating as a closer in both leagues, his combined stats from Korea and Japan include a 1.81 ERA, 357 saves and a 772/149 K/BB ratio over 646 innings. Signed by the St. Louis Cardinals over the winter, he has been just as dominating in the early going in MLB. Oh goes after batters with a fastball in the low 90s, as well as change up, but his best pitch is a nearly unhittable slider.  Over 7 games and 7.2 innings this season, Oh has yet to give up a run, has struck out 13, and picked up a win. Hitters are only batting .100 off him on balls in play. While St. Louis wasn’t looking to use Oh as a replacement for closer Trever Rosenthal, he instead adds a lockdown reliever to St. Louis’ bullpen that can help them extend the game and provide insurance at closer should Rosenthal suffer an injury or ineffectiveness.

K Baseball Graphic

Kim Hyun-soo

The Baltimore Orioles signed Kim Hyun-soo to be their starting left fielder this offseason. Things have not worked out to plan. After having a poor spring, he lost the starting left field job to Rule 5 pick Joey Rickard. The Orioles hoped to convince Kim go to the minor leagues to work on his swing, but ultimately kept him on the major league roster after he refused a minor league assignment. In limited play over 6 at bats, Kim has hit .500 and had begun to show improvement towards the end of spring training. If Kim can round his swing into shape and grab more playing time, he has the potential to be an above average hitter. In the KBO he was a .300 hitter with 20 home run power and a good batting eye. The power may not completely translate to MLB, but the rest of the package has the potential to do so.

Lee Dae-ho

Much like Oh Seung-hwan, Lee Dae-ho is a more experienced player who has spent time both in the KBO and Japan. In his last four seasons in Japan, Lee has shown good power and a good average, while demonstrating a good eye with a high level of walks and an ability to avoid strikeouts. Lee’s power isn’t quite as prodigious as Park Byung-ho’s, but given playing time he should be able to hit for power. Though, playing time might be his problem. He’s the short-end of a first base platoon with Adam Lind and the backup DH to Nelson Cruz. Interestingly, Nelson Cruz might be the MLB player Lee is most comparable to. In the early going, Lee has 2 home runs and is hitting .250 on the year.

Choi Ji-man

Originally signed by the Seattle Mariners as a free agent as a teenager, Choi Ji-man played in the U.S. minor league system rather than in Korea or Japan. Taken this winter as a Rule 5 pick by the Los Angeles Angels, Choi has always had a good feel for hitting and the plate discipline needed to be successful. However, despite good bat speed he’s never quite produced the power that was expected. After seeing an increase in his power in 2013, he was suspended for using performance enhancing drugs and the previous spike in power has yet to return. As a Rule 5 pick, he’s seen only 6 at bats this year with the Angels and is likely to only get sporadic playing time.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director for Congressional Affairs and Trade at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are his own.

Photo from Drew Garaet’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Should Major League Baseball be Allowed to Sign Korean Players?

By Troy Stangarone

As a Chicago Cubs fan, I’ve watched the slow influx of Korean players into the major leagues in recent years with interest. When the Cubs first signed Choi Hee Seop he was pegged as the power hitter who would eventually succeed Mark Grace as the Cubs first basemen. That didn’t work out, and the signing was originally controversial in Korea where Choi was temporarily banned from playing. However, over time, the Cubs and other major league teams began signing more Korean players as the level of play in Korea advanced. That may soon change because of the recent signing by the Baltimore Orioles of Korea’s most promising young pitcher, Kim Seong-min.

By signing Kim Seong-min to a contract, the Orioles have set off a controversy that has already led to Orioles’ scouts being banned from Korea and Kim being banned from playing or coaching in Korea for life. The controversy over the signing stems from the Orioles failure to follow protocol in signing the 17 year old Kim, which calls for Major League Baseball (MLB) to notify the Korea Baseball Association (KBO), which runs Korea’s professional baseball league, before negotiating with Kim to determine if he was eligible to be signed. Unlike the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico where a player can be signed at the age of 16 (as well as for many other international players), Korean players are only allowed to be contacted by Korean or foreign teams during their final year of high school. Kim was only a rising junior in Korea.

Though the contract is ultimately expected to stand, Kim’s signing has also raised concerns about the increasing number of Korean players who are being signed by major league teams and the ultimate impact these departures will have on the development of youth baseball in Korea. Much of this is due to the increasing level of play in Korea, which finished second in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, baseball’s Johnny come lately answer to soccer’s World Cup. As the quality of players in Korea grows, there will be increasing interest from MLB in bringing players to the United States.

The increased interest from professional teams in the United States has made it more difficult for Korea to develop youth baseball programs. The most recent incident is pushing the KBO to seek to revise its agreement with MLB to prohibit major league teams from signing amateurs in Korea, but instead limiting signings to players who either have or currently are playing in Korea’s major league. However, MLB has done a great deal to develop youth baseball in the United States and abroad and would seem to be well placed to do so in Korea as well.

The challenges Korea faces in keeping talent at home, however, are not unique. Japanese professionals have long sought to play in the major leagues as it is the world’s elite professional baseball league. One of the biggest signings this winter was of Yu Darvish from Japan by the Texas Rangers. While formally joining the Rangers through the posting system, he would have been eligible to sign with a major league team prior to joining Japan’s major leagues.

The United States also faces this issue in respects to soccer. The premier professional leagues for soccer are in Europe, not the United States. Most of the best U.S. players end up playing in the English Premier League or the Italian Serie A. They are mostly encouraged to do so as the level of U.S. soccer on the international stage will only be enhanced by U.S. players playing regularly against the world’s best. This is true even for perennial soccer power Brazil, which also sees many of its most talented players suit up for European clubs. Interestingly, Major League Soccer has tried to draw in the best possible international talent rather than retain U.S. talent in trying to raise the level of play in the United States.

For anyone who has been to a baseball game in Korea, it would be hard to argue that there are any more passionate fans in the world for the sport. It seems clear that the Orioles violated the spirit of the rules when it comes to signing Kim Seong-min and that MLB and KBO should work together to try and clarify the procedures for MLB teams signing armature talent in Korea rather than prohibit it.  However, Kim’s exposure to the best players in the world will likely only enhance his value to the Korean national team in future international competitions.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director for Congressional Affairs and Trade at the Korea Economic Institute. The views expressed here are his own.

Photo from Dave Newman’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Wrestling With Diplomacy in North Korea

By Chad 0Carroll

Rewind to April 1995, just one year after the death of Kim Il Sung, a nuclear crisis that nearly brought about war, and a time of biting economic hardship.  After such a long period of mourning, probably the last thing you would have expected to see taking place would be an international wrestling tournament in Pyongyang, attended by the likes of boxing champion Muhammad Ali and World Championship Wrestling’s (WCW) Rick Flair.  But that’s exactly what happened, and bizarrely, all in the name of international peace and friendship.  If the post Kim Il Sung period is providing the template for North Korea after Kim Jong-il, might Pyongyang now seek to repeat history through another major wrestling tournament at some point this year?

Having organized a number of similar events in Beijing, Moscow and Baghdad, event director Antonio Inoki evidently saw 1995 as the perfect time to help improve the DPRK’s relations with long-time adversaries Japan and the USA. As a well-known wrestler and former Japanese politician, Inoki was in a unique position to put on an event like “Collision in Korea”.  Having been trained by the legendary Korean wrestler Rikidozan (much admired in the DPRK), Inoki’s popularity in North Korea gave him the capacity to convince authorities there about the benefits of his prospective tournament.  And as owner of New Japan Pro Wrestling (a well respected international wrestling promotions company), he had good connections to wrestling communities in both Japan and the United States.

Former WCW President Eric Bischoff wrote about being approached for the tournament in his biography, Controversy Creates Cash. Recounting Inoki’s initial proposal to WCW, he explained:  “When I got that phone call and the opportunity to go to a place that [was] off-limits to Americans, I jumped at it. I said, “Ab­solutely, no problem”.  With support from an American wrestling promoter secured, agreement from the North Koreans to host it in their mammoth sized May Day Stadium, and access for foreign visitors approved, Inoki scheduled the tournament to form the main pillar of the 1995 Pyongyang International Sports and Cultural Festival for Peace.  He was even able to persuade Muhammad Ali to attend, having fought against him in a special event in 1976.

Recorded in history as the largest ever professional wrestling event, the North Koreans packed a record breaking 320,000 spectators into Pyongyang’s May Day stadium to watch proceedings over the course of two days.  But compared to the raucous crowds commonly associated with American wrestling events, the Pyongyang crowd appear subdued in video recordings of the event.  Given North Korea’s isolation at the time, this should come as no surprise.  And as Bischoff recalled,  “I wondered what they could possibly be thinking when they saw Ric Flair come out in his flowered, sequined robe as the 2001 Space Odyssey theme blared through the speakers.”

While the audience was mainly local, some 15,000 Japanese, Chinese and overseas Koreans were reported as also having attended the event, with even a handful of Americans joining.  This foreign presence led to some unforeseen consequences for the hosts, with one post-event news article drawing attention to the plight of the hundreds of ethnic Koreans who had ostensibly attended for wrestling, but really in hope of connecting with lost family members.  Obliged to attend the tournament by night and tour the country’s official sights by day, all requests for family reunions were turned down – even when relatives were known to be living in the center of Pyongyang.   The heartbreak was reportedly too much for one 75 year old woman.  When the tour bus happened to visit a site just a few miles outside her hometown, where her sister still lives, she looked up at the sky and cried out: “Mother, Father! Your daughter has come home!”

Walter Keats, manager of Asia Pacific Travel, was one of the few American tourists allowed to go on the trip, in what marked one of the first opportunities U.S. nationals ever had to visit the DPRK.  Entering the country by train (now impossible for Americans), his group took in a nine day tour of the country that centered around the two day wrestling event. Talking to The Peninsula, Walter recalled the tour as being extremely restrictive, but that the group unexpectedly got to see well beyond the capital, taking in sites deep in the country – all just months before the onset of the countries’ worst-ever famine.

In the final match of the event, Antonio Inoki fought against Rick Flair, winning (predictably) after just 14 minutes to roars of excitement from the North Korean crowd. Even if they didn’t understand wrestling initially, they did know that Flair was an American and were happy to see his demise in the last stage of the event. With Inoki’s victory, one of the most bizarre examples of sporting diplomacy came to an end, bizarrely then kept off American TV screens until one year later, when WCW turned it into a Pay-Per-View for its domestic audience.

As far as sports diplomacy goes, the nature of North Korea makes it hard to see if Inoki’s wrestling tournament helped foster a better understanding of the Japanese and Americans even one iota.  While other sports might strengthen people-to-people relations through team-work and collaboration, by its very nature, wrestling was never going to do much to change North Korean opinions towards two traditional adversaries.  And if the event was at all meant to improve American understanding of the DPRK, it looks to have failed miserably on this front.  Recounting his departure from Pyongyang, in his autobiography Ric Flair describes kissing the ground on arriving in Japan, so “glad to be back on friendly soil”.  And as for Muhammad Ali’s reaction, well, due to expletives it cannot be published here. Suffice to say, he didn’t get a very good impression of North Korea.

While the 1995 wrestling tournament may have had some lofty objectives related to peace and friendship, they sadly went by unachieved. And if anything, the tournament may have even contributed to worsening international opinion of North Korea, such was the nature of the feedback from much of the wrestling community. So while there may be some sense in repeating as much of the past as possible to help bolster Kim Jong-un’s leadership credentials post Kim Jong-il, North Korea would now be ill advised to host another major wrestling tournament.  Instead, a drug-free and constructive participation at the London Olympics offers a much better opportunity for the DPRK to improve its standing and contribute to an environment of international peace and friendship.

Chad 0Carroll is the Director of Communications for the Korea Economic Institute. The views represented here are his own.

Photo from David Stanley’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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About The Peninsula

The Peninsula blog is a project of the Korea Economic Institute. It is designed to provide a wide ranging forum for discussion of the foreign policy, economic, and social issues that impact the Korean peninsula. The views expressed on The Peninsula are those of the authors alone, and should not be taken to represent the views of either the editors or the Korea Economic Institute. For questions, comments, or to submit a post to The Peninsula, please contact us at ts@keia.org.