What Not Earning A Single Medal Could Mean For North Korean Athletes
As the 2018 Winter Olympics wrap up, citizens of most participating nations can look back on their team’s performances experience as a source of pride, even if they didn’t bring home any medals.
North Korea is a different type of country, however. Losing is such a massive dishonor for North Korea that only public shaming can even begin to remedy.
This attitude is evidenced by North Korea’s reaction towards its team’s bad performance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa – their last appearance at another prestigious international tournament. They lost every one of their three group stage games with a notable 7-0 smacking from Portugal, which stands as the largest margin of victory of the tournament’s history since 2002.
According to Radio Free Asia, players on the North Korean soccer team never heard the end of it about their poor performance.
“The players were summoned on July 2, on returning to Pyongyang, to a large auditorium at the Working People’s Culture Palace and subjected to a ‘grand debate’ and criticism that they failed in the ‘ideological struggle,’ according to a Chinese businessman,” Radio Free Asia reported at the time.
More than 400 people attended the allegedly 6-hour-long roast of the North Korean players, who were “subjected to a session of harsh ideological criticism.”
There was no way for the players to generalize their critics’ ruthless disapproval of the team because they were each singled out. “Noted sports commentator Ri Dong Kyu was tasked to point out the shortcomings of each of the players, and subsequently criticize them.”
This certainly doesn’t bode well for North Korea’s 22 Olympians, none of whom managed to earn a spot on the podium and none of whom can at this point. The country’s highest finish was 13th in pairs figure skating, but most of its Olympians finished last or nearly last in their sports.