Five North Korea players have tested positive for steroids at the women’s World Cup, soccer’s biggest doping scandal at a major tournament in 17 years. FIFA President Sepp Blatter said Saturday that after two players were caught during the tournament this month, FIFA tested the rest of the North Korean squad and found three more positive results. "This is a shock," Blatter said at a news conference. "We are confronted with a very, very bad case of doping and it hurts." Meanwhile, Colombia’s reserve goalkeeper Yineth Varon been suspended for failing an out-of-competition test just before the World Cup in the wake of undergoing hormonal treatment. It was the first doping case in the history of the women’s World Cup. FIFA annually spends some $30 million on 35,000 doping tests. Despite the cases at the women’s World Cup, "doping really is a marginal, fringe phenomenon in football," Blatter said. The last doping case at a major event came at the men’s 1994 World Cup in the United States, when Diego Maradona was kicked out after testing positive for stimulants. FIFA has already met with a North Korean delegation and heard arguments that the steroids were accidentally taken with traditional Chinese medicines based on musk deer glands to treat players who had been struck by lightning on June 8 during a training camp in North Korea. The case will be taken up by FIFA’s disciplinary committee. Players, male or female, face a ban of up to two years for such infractions. Defenders Song Jong Sun and Jong Pok Sim tested positive for steroids after North Korea’s first two group games and were suspended for the last match. The team was eliminated in the first round after losses to the United States and Sweden and a draw with Colombia. Blatter said the North Korean federation "wrote to us and they presented their excuses. They said that a lightning strike was responsible for this." The names of the three other players would only be made public at a later stage, FIFA said. The gland in question comes from musk deer living in a large swathe of Asia from Siberia to North Korea. The hairy 4-centimeter gland is usually cut open to extract a liquid that is used for medical purposes. Doping officials have been concerned about such naturally occurring substances in recent years. During the run-up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, FIFA’s concerns focused on African plants that could players an unfair advantage by providing energy boosts or helping to heal muscle injuries. FIFA investigators who discovered evidence of doping in the North Korean samples were in uncharted territory as such steroids had not previously been encountered. Experts from the World Anti-Doping Agency were called in to confirm the breach of doping rules. "It was very complex," FIFA’s chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak said. He added that the medical officer of the North Korea team provided a sample of the medicine to help their analysis. The musk gland extract "it is not part of the world of doping," Dvorak said. "It is really the first case in which this has been discovered." The North Koreans first mentioned the lightning incident after losing their opening match to the United States. When North Korean officials were asked later, they refused to elaborate on the circumstances. North Korean coach Kim Kwang Min said after their first match against the United States that "more than five" players were sent to the hospital. Goalkeeper Hong Myong Hui, four defenders and some of the midfielders were the players most affected, Kim said. "The physicians actually said the players were not capable of playing in the tournament," Kim said through an interpreter. Dvorak said the information was still sketchy. "We saw some pictures with ambulances and saw that some players were taken from the pitch, but that is all we have," he said. FIFA also got information from North Korea about the initial hospital treatment of the players and "this very first report did not include the traditional Chinese medicine," Dvorak said. The tournament ends Sunday with the final between the United States and Japan.
As usual, the North Korean story is sketchy: after embarrassing losses at the WWC, the coach decides to tell press that some of the team had been struck by lightning (!) weeks earlier. Press is surprised that this wasn’t brought up earlier, and the Oh-Those-Zany-North-Koreans Story-of-the-Week goes viral. Then some of the team members test positive for steroids, and we have an excuse that deer musk gland extract, certainly a medicine unknown to most knowledgeable of performance enhancing drugs is to blame. An admirable underdog story of an injured team fighting against all odds to compete, or an elaborate attempt to spin bad news into good for the North Koreans cheering back home?
PyeongChang, South Korea was recently awarded the Winter Olympics in a landslide vote from the International Olympic Committee. As has happened in the past for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, the suggestion has been made from both sides (that is, the left-wing opposition in the South and the desperate for foreign currency North) that some events and teams be shared jointly to represent a Korean peninsula “striving” for peaceful reunification. The Lee Myung-Bak South Korean government is playing it off with no serious consideration. From The Korea Times:
South and North Korea must resolve pending safety issues before discussing the potential of co-hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in PyeongChang, a government official said Wednesday. Seoul has said it is open to related discussions but not actively looking into the matter. Any such move would need the approval of the International Olympic Committee, which observers say is highly unlikely. "It’s possible as an idea,"Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo told reporters. "But for co-hosting to be possible, security issues of people going to North Korea needs to be solved. We’re not considering or examining anything seriously at the moment." She stressed, however, the importance of talks over a stalled joint tourism project in Mt. Geumgang in the North, which discontinued after the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean visitor. The remarks followed a statement by Jang Ung, a North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee, who told reporters in Tokyo that the North hopes to share events with PyeongChang. The host city is located in Gangwon Provice, which straddles both South and North Korea. It was the first reaction from a North Korean official after PyeongChang beat out Munich of Germany and Annecy of France last week to win the rights to host the 2018 Winter Games. The successful bid set off a flurry of activity among lawmakers, with ruling and opposition parties agreeing to make efforts to field a unified Korean team and jointly train athletes. Rep. Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of the opposition Democratic Party, said Monday he would explore ways to co-host the event. Bahng Tae-seop, a North Korea watcher at the Samsung Economic Research Institute, said the stepped up security at that time would force the North to make an important decision regarding the Games. "The South Korean military, as well as the U.S. military, will need to prepare against threats such as terrorism given the international scope of the event,"he said. "That will be seen as a threat against the regime. It will be a matter of rational choice — accepting any chance to co-host, remain silent or, in the worst case, resort to more bad behavior."
Joshua Stanton, of One Free Korea, has a cynical analysis held by most Pyongyang observers (not excluding myself). He believes the South Korean posturing is simply to please the left-wing opposition party, who strive for peace and unity with their Northern kinsmen. The North apparently support this idea as well, however in the 1988 Olympics their excessive demands for co-hosting events and opening ceremonies met in a complete breakdown in negotiations resulting in a boycott by several other socialist countries. And according to a Gallup poll, nearly 3/4s of South Koreans agree that the DPRK should certainly not be involved.
How do you prepare for the Women’s World Cup with significantly less practice playing against other international teams than your opponents? Pump your athletes full of ‘roids. Two defenders, Song Jong-Sun and Jong Pok-Sim tested positive for use of anabolic steroids. From the AFP:
The pair were removed from the lineup for North Korea’s goalless draw with Colombia in Bochum on Wednesday, but after the Group C game, the remaining 19 players in the squad were all tested by FIFA.
"This is a unique event at the World Cup, but if there are two positive samples in a team it means we have to investigate," said Dr. Jiri Dvorak, FIFA’s chief medical officer.
"This is a very sad day."
The pair have been provisionally suspended and their B samples have been sent for testing by FIFA.
According to SID, an AFP subsidiary, the North Korean team left Germany early on Thursday morning having been eliminated after the group stages.
Theo Zwanziger, president of the German Football Federation (DFB) was scathing in his criticism of the North Koreans.
"This incident underlines the impression of the inhumane system in North Korea where attempts are made to give athletes success by any means possible," he said.
"Success which can then be used for government propaganda."
But Zwanziger acknowledged FIFA’s testing methods are catching athletes who use steroids.
"It is a positive that FIFA’S testing procedures seem to be working in the fight against doping," he said.
The two North Korean players were tested after the first two games against the United States and Sweden.
Their samples were examined at the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory in Kreischa, east Germany, and then at the German Sport University in Cologne.
In total, there have now been three failed doping tests at the World Cup after Colombian player Yineth Varon failed an out-of-competition test in in Leverkusen on 25 June.
Yesterday, the US and DPRK Women’s World Cup football teams played a hard fought match in Dresden, Gemany that resulted in a 2-0 victory for the US. After the match, the North Korean manager, Kwang Min Kim had an intriguing thought into why the North lost:
North Korea’s coach blamed his side’s 2-0 loss to the United States on his players getting struck by lightning in the build up to the Women’s World Cup. Kwang Min Kim claimed that some of them were hospitalised with electrocution after a training match on 8 June. Tournament favourites United States recovered from a slow start to to take maximum points in their Group C opener. … North Korea – the youngest team in the tournament by average age – started well in Dresden, but eventually conceded when Lauren Cheney completed a swift move with a well-timed header before Rachel Buehler converted with 14 minutes remaining. "When we stayed in Pyongyang during training our players were hit by lightning, and more than five of them were hospitalised," said coach Kim, without naming the affected players specifically. "Some stayed in hospital and then came to Germany later than the rest of us. The goalkeeper and the four defenders were most affected, and some midfielders as well. The physicians said the players were not capable of participating in the tournament. "But World Cup football is the most important and significant event for a footballer, so they don’t want to think about anything but football. "The fact that they played could be called abnormal, the result of very strong will."
A portion of the team were struck by lightning weeks prior to playing… well that’s certainly a unique excuse. Hope it works back home for the athletes, if their losses continue! North Korea next plays against Sweden on July 2nd at 8:00AM EST.
How quickly times gets away from you.. the labourious process of buying, packing up and getting ready to move into a new house has consumed much of my free time that might otherwise be spent maintaining this website. But I digress… here’s a small selection of what’s been going on over the past few weeks.
Pyongyang undergoing massive renovations in time for 2012, university students put to work until April 2012
2012 is an important year for North Korea for many reasons. Mainly, it is to celebrate the 100th birthday of the DPRK’s perpetual despot Kim Il-Sung, which could very well be the biggest birthday bash the Great Leader has ever had thrown on his behalf. There is also a great burden on grandson Kim Jong-Un, who is allegedly involved in many of the preparations and tasked to help forge the "strong and prosperous nation" by 2012. One massive undertaking is the renovation of the famous Mansudae area of Pyongyang, home to the giant bronze statue of Kim Il-Sung and numerous landmarks. Huffington Post has a summary:
"The central part of Pyongyang will be refurbished according to the requirements of this new century and the demand of modern times by 2012," Yun Sok Chon, head of the Institute of Pyongyang City Design, told APTN.
The building project in Pyongyang’s Mansudae area will include a new theater, apartment blocks, restaurants, shops and a 10-hectare (25-acre) park area, the Korean Central News Agency reported earlier this month. KCNA said the project "will change the appearance of the capital city beyond recognition."
In the past two years, three other high-profile apartment projects have been completed in Pyongyang.
Authorities have not made public the cost of the Mansudae project, exact statistics of its scale or the resources involved. But it is part of the biggest construction work in Pyongyang since the development of a new town area called Tongil Street in the 1990s.
Ambitious project. Given a constant shortfall of construction supplies, at least they seemed to have solved a labour shortage. UK news outlet The Telegraph reports that students are being conscripted to work construction sites in major cities and deal with agricultural problems as well:
Pyongyang has told the North Korean people that the nation will have achieved its aim of becoming "a great, prosperous and powerful nation" in 2012, which marks the 100th anniversary of the founder of the reclusive state, Kim Il-sung. In addition, Kim Jong-il will turn 70 in February and the "Dear Leader" hopes to be able to transfer his power and an economically stronger nation to his son and heir-apparent, Kim Jong-Un. Reports in South Korea indicated that the government in Pyongyang on Monday ordered all universities to cancel classes until April of next year. The only exemptions are for students who will be graduating in the next few months and foreign students. The reports suggested that the students will be put to work on construction projects in major cities while there are also indications that repair work may be needed in agricultural regions that were affected by a major typhoon recently. Analysts in Japan claim there may be other reasons behind the decision to disperse the students across the country. "One reason is that there is a possibility of demonstrations at university campuses," said Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University and author of a number of books on the North Korean leadership. "The leadership has seen the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in Africa and it is very frightened that the same thing could happen in North Korea," he said. "They fear it could start in the universities." Professor Shigemura also said that North Korea has purchased anti-riot equipment from China in recent months, including tear gas and batons, while there has been an increased police presence at key points in Pyongyang in recent months.
China has since denied supplying North Korea with riot gear to deal with potential domestic protests, a la the revolutions in the Middle East. It’s not uncommon for the DPRK to draft its students into labour when times are tough. However, the DailyNK and other North Korean observers believe the project is doomed to failure, and all except for Kim Jong-Un will be punished as a result.
Groundbreaking ceremonies and construction of Special Economic Zones between North Korea and China
This project has been mentioned a few times, the most recent being unexplained delays in the groundbreaking ceremonies for new Special Economic Zones designed to encourage trade between North Korea and China and possible economic reforms for the hermit kingdom. From Yonhap:
North Korea and China on Wednesday broke ground on a border island to develop it into an economic zone, spurring speculation that Pyongyang may embrace Chinese-style economic development to try to revive its faltering economy. The groundbreaking ceremony came on the heels of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s weeklong trip to China in May to study the neighboring country’s spectacular economic development, his third trip to China in just over a year. Beijing has been trying to lure its impoverished ally to embrace the reform that lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped Beijing’s rise to becoming the world’s second-largest economy. On Wednesday, some 1,000 people from North Korea and China, including Kim’s brother-in-law, Jang Song-thaek, and Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming, attended the ceremony on Hwanggumphyong Island in the Yalu River that separates the two countries. Several dozen giant advertising balloons were floating in the air as a military brass band played festive songs, and hundreds of doves were released at the ceremony. The messages on the balloons read "North Korea-China friendship and joint development" in a symbolic gesture for their commitment to the project. The two sides also reportedly signed a deal on the joint development project, including lease terms on Hwanggumphyong. No details were immediately available. The massive ceremony came two days after Pyongyang said it will turn the Hwanggumphyong and Wihwa islands into the economic zone to boost friendly ties with China and expand and develop external economic relations. The North’s parliament said Monday that the development of the zone will start from the Hwanggumphyong district.
Check the Korea Herald link below for more technical detail on the projects. Hopefully these economic zones don’t have the same underwhelming results as similar SEZ projects in the past.
Speculation, then cancellation, of a Kim Jong-Il summit with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev
Speculation was rampant throughout the month of June that Kim Jong-Il would again be leaving North Korea via his private train to meet Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. The meeting was rumoured to occur on either June 30th or July 1st in the Russian city of Vladivostok, just 130km from the North Korean border. From Reuters:
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) – Russian authorities are preparing for a possible visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, a local official in Russia’s Far East said on condition of anonymity on Monday.
"We are making preparations," said the local official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The official declined to give any details about the trip other than that Kim was expected to travel to Russia’s Far East, which borders North Korea, in an armored train.
When asked if Kim was due to visit, the governor of Russia’s Far Eastern region of Primorye, Sergei Darkin, told reporters in Moscow: "I cannot comment on what presidents of other countries plan to do. You will soon find out."
A couple of days later, according to Japanese news outlet Kyodo
North Korea has called off a plan for its leader Kim Jong Il to hold a summit with Russian Dmitry Medvedev in this Russian Far East city on Thursday, multiple Russian government officials told Kyodo News on Wednesday.
Among the reasons given by the North Korean side for canceling the trip, in which he was expected to cross the border by rail Thursday and arrive in Vladivostok within the day, was that Kim’s health was not in the best condition to travel, they said.
But according to the officials, the cancellation came after the two sides failed to narrow differences over the summit agenda.
Kim was looking better than he has in years during his China visit (see video at the bottom of this article), but perhaps he’s taken a turn for the worse? Perhaps this will get rescheduled soon.
A new resettlement facility for North Korean defectors in South Korea, the third of its kind
In November last year, South Korea announced it had taken in its 20,000th defector from North Korea. This number has been steadily increasing since, now up to 21,700 in total, and putting pressure on the educational facilities that aim to integrate North Koreans into the unfamiliar capitalist way of life. Yonhap says:
The move is the latest reminder that the flow of North Korean defectors isn’t letting up despite Pyongyang’s harsh crackdown on escapees. Seoul is now home to more than 21,700 North Koreans. South Korea has already been running two other resettlement centers, known as Hanawon near Seoul to help the defectors better adjust to life in the capitalist South. Still, the government will break ground for another resettlement center in Hwacheon on July 7 as the two current facilities are running at full capacity, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo told reporters. The area is about 118 kilometers northeast of Seoul. She also said the government is planning to offer re-education for former North Korean teachers, doctors and other experts in the new resettlement center to be built by the end of 2012. The announcement comes amid the latest dispute between the two Koreas over nine North Koreans who defected to the South earlier this month. Seoul has indicated it will not return the North Korean defectors despite the North’s request for repatriation. The North usually claims South Korea kidnaps its citizens, charges that Seoul denies.
A temporary solution to hopefully a temporary problem… 21,700 down, 23,978,300 to go!
“Secret” meetings between South and North Korea for a proposed summit revealed
This is already old news, but reveals the tumultuousness and communication breakdowns that occur regularly in inter-Korean politics. On June 1st, North Korea’s state run media outlet KCNA loudly announced that South Korea was secretly attempting to bribe North Korea to a summit meeting in April:
It is a sheer lie that at the Beijing secret contact the south side briefed the DPRK side on the "real intention" reflected in the "Berlin proposal" made by traitor Lee. Now that the Lee group let the spokesman for Chongwadae open to public the above-mentioned secret contact first on the basis of fabrications and is busy floating nonsensical stories, the DPRK side has no option but to clarify it as it happened. Finding it hard to evade the responsibility for having driven the inter-Korean relations to catastrophe, the Lee group was aware that the crisis in the closing period of its rule might further deepen due to the situation. Hence, entering April the group made repeated requests to "hold a secret contact for the ‘summit talks,’ saying it would no more talk about ‘Cheonan’ warship sinking case and Yonphyong Island shelling case." And it made poor excuses that what matters is that Lee’s "policy towards the north" is "misunderstood" by the north and the south, in fact, stands for the improvement of the north-south relations. Kim Chon Sik, chief of the policy room of the puppet ministry of unification, Hong Chang Hwa, director of the intelligence service, and Kim Thae Hyo, senior presidential secretary for foreign strategy of secretariat of Chongwadae, and others came out to the venue of the secret contact that started on May 9. They, however, began playing jugglery to wrest apology from the DPRK side, asserting that the above-said cases were "mountains to be crossed with wisdom" for the improvement of the south-north relations. This was a breach of the promise made to the DPRK side earlier. When it declared that it was preposterous to say the word "apology" over the cases with which it had nothing to do and just measures for self-defence, they asked it to put forth "a compromise proposal" to be declared before the world, the proposal which cannot be interpreted as apology, when viewed by the north side but as apology when viewed by the south side. They implored the north to "make a little concession". When the DPRK side told them to go back to Seoul at once, saying it is not necessary to discuss the issue of the summit talks in which unreasonable "apology" raised as a pre-condition, they tried hard to keep the contact going on at any cost, saying that it would not be long before Lee Myung Bak’s tenure of office would end, the present authorities are hard pressed for time and it is more favorable to push forward the inter-Korean relations by joining hands with the conservative forces, in stead of doing so with the progressive forces. Noting that a program for all events for the opening of the "summit talks" has already been worked out, they said that depending on the settlement of the issues of the two cases, they expected to open ministerial talks for the "summit talks" late in May to announce agreed points, hold the first round of the "summit talks” in Panmunjom late in June, the second one in Pyongyang two months later and the third round of the "summit talks" during the summit for nuclear security slated to take place in March next year. They earnestly begged the DPRK side to take this embarrassing situation into consideration.
On June 9th, KCNA had more to say regarding alleged bribes to encourage North Korea to the summit:
When the contact was on the verge of a rupture, Hong Chang Hwa took out enveloped money from a suitcase at the order of Kim Thae Hyo, who was going to give it to us. We rejected it at once, and Kim blushed and got irritated. Hong hurriedly put the money into the suitcase in an awkward movement and left without exchanging proper parting words with our delegates.
At first the group of traitors asserted that there was no case of enveloped money. But now it distorts the fact by claiming that the money was for expenses to be paid traditionally by the sponsor of contact rather than "reward" for leading the contact to "summit talks".
If it is usage for a party sponsoring any talks to pay necessary expenses as asserted by the south side, why didn’t the south side present the enveloped money at the time of the two preceding rounds of contact?
The south side was well aware that the DPRK embassy provided lodging and boarding and vehicles. Then, was it going to pay the embassy the said enveloped money for living expenses during its stay? Its far-fetched assertion has gone far.
Of course, South Korea has an opposing view of how these discussions went down. From Yonhap:
South Korea’s point man on North Korea said Wednesday that Pyongyang first proposed a secret meeting that has become the latest hurdle in inter-Korean relations.
The two Koreas have accused each other of distorting the facts of their secret meeting in Beijing in May after Pyongyang revealed details of the meeting earlier this month.
The North claimed Seoul negotiators had "begged" for three inter-Korean summits and offered an envelope of cash as an inducement, allegations dismissed by Seoul.
South Korea said the meeting was designed to get North Korea to apologize for its two deadly attacks on the South last year, as part of Seoul’s efforts to break the current impasse and put inter-Korean ties back on track.
"It was North Korea that made the offer for the unannounced contact," Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said in a parliamentary session.
He said the North’s disclosure of the meeting was aimed at getting Seoul into trouble and splitting public opinion in the South.
Many Pyongyang observers point out that the North has possibly decided to simply wait out Lee Myung-bak’s term in office, as his term is nearing an end and a shift in North Korean policy may be imminent with a new government.
A nice write-up from Martyn Williams about North Korea’s IP addresses
The amazing (and pleasantly niche) blog North Korea Tech has an interesting piece detailing North Korea’s IP address blocks managed in Thailand and China. A good place to start if you suspect the North Koreans of invading your PC!
Inter-Korean table tennis cooperation? Hard to imagine in this high tension period, but it’s happened before… from Yonhap:
The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and the Monaco-based Peace and Sport Foundation jointly announced Tuesday that their Peace and Sport Table Tennis Tournament will invite 10 countries to "encourage dialogue and good relations" between states. It is set for Nov. 21-22 this year in Qatar. Players from different countries that have been historically at odds with each other will form doubles teams. "Organized by the Qatar National Olympic Committee and the Qatar Tennis Table Association, under the leadership of the ITTF and the guidance of Peace and Sport, this is an unprecedented sports event that will break political tensions and unite nations in a way that only table tennis can," the ITTF said in a statement. The two Koreas have been asked to field joint doubles squads, as have India and Pakistan, and the U.S. and Iran. Organizers said they hoped the event will turn athletes into "genuine ambassadors of global peace." The Peace and Sport Foundation added, "Onlookers will include key government officials and diplomats from each of the competing nations, fostering political communication and relations at the highest level." Qatar has also invited China, Japan and Russia. According to the ITTF, the competition will feature men’s and women’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles. In table tennis, the Koreas last formed a joint team at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba City, Japan, and won the gold in the women’s team event. Adham Sharara, president of the ITTF, said most states, including North Korea, said they’d like to participate in the event. He also said he plans to visit North Korea in June to try to persuade officials there to field doubles teams with South Korea. Kim Choong-yong, vice chairman of Seoul-based Korea Table Tennis Association, said it would hold "a great significance" for forming inter-Korean doubles teams to mark the 20th anniversary of the Chiba City event. "We will have to study the details, but since (Peace and Sport) will be an exhibition match, I don’t foresee a major problem as long as North Korea agrees," Kim said. "There’s really no reason for us to turn down this offer."
It’s been 20 years since the Koreas participated jointly in a table tennis tournament. I don’t hold high hopes for North Korea agreeing, but who knows? It could go a long way in improving diplomacy between the rival states.
According to the DailyNK: South Korea, who previously hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2002, is bidding to host the 2022 games. The South has modern facility, world class telecommunications infrastructure, terrific transit systems, so how could they lose? Well, in what appears to be a symbolic gesture towards one day reunifying the peninsula, the South has also put forth in their bid that they would like some of the games hosted in North Korea. This may put a damper on FIFA’s ranking of the country to host again, as North Korea is notoriously frustrating to deal with when it comes to joint projects between the two countries. In 1988, Seoul attempted the same tactic to host the Summer Olympics, but North Korea’s demands were deemed too unreasonable, and the North and several other communist countries joined together in a boycott of the games.
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) ruled today that the DPRK would ineligible to participate in world championships for gymnastics, effectively eliminating them from participating in the 2012 London Olympics. The ban is due to conflicting age reports for Hong Su Jong, who reported her birth year as being 1989, while in previous championships she had used 1986 and 1985 to bypass age restrictions. North Korea has one last shot to appeal the ruling, which is an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The DPRK is appealing a ban of the North Korean gymnast team for participating in world championship’s due to inconsistencies in the reported age of Hong Su Jong. The controversy lies with her reported aged for the Athens 2004 Olympics having her birth year registered as 1985, while other sources cite her birth year as 1989, which would have made her ineligible for the Olympics (she would have been 15 when Olympic rules state athletes must be 16 or older). Though many outlets report her being the older sister of 2008 Olympic gold medalist Hong Su Jong, it is believed that they are in fact twins, both sharing a birthdate of March 9th, 2009 (both pictured above, on the left and the right respectively). It is a requirement for all gymnasts at international meets to carry a license proving their age. The International Gymnastics Federation’s appeal tribunal will rule within the next 5 days.
Many were confused by DPRK football team’s powerhouse patriotic tears during the North’s national anthem at this year’s world cup. After all, this footballer is Japanese born and has never even been to the North, so what’s the story here? Reporter Mark Willacy has a fascinating piece about the Chongryon, or “General Association of Korean Residents in Japan”, which is a school/embassy type of organization for North Koreans (or of that descent) living in Japan. Before WWII, Japan had annexed the Korean peninsula and brought many Koreans to do slave labour in Japan. These Zainichi are the people and descendents of those displaced people. The article explains the “brain-washing” applied to these Koreans living in Japan, and that the tears of Jong Tae Se were genuine pride for his people and fatherland.