Archive for the ‘Figure skating’ Category

IOC aids DPRK athletes to attend Olympics

Sunday, March 7th, 2010


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) provided US$115,200 worth of support for the training of North Korean athletes who took part in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, a Washington-based radio station said Saturday.

From November 2008 through last month, the IOC provided monthly support of $1,500 to each of five North Korean athletes, two of whom participated in the Olympics that ended March 1, the international broadcaster Radio Free Asia reported, citing an e-mail from the committee.

The communist North sent figure skaters Ko Hyun-sook and Ri Song-chol to the Vancouver Olympics, but failed to win a medal.

The impoverished Pyongyang, which relies on outside aid to feed its 24 million people, has won a total of two [WINTER] Olympic medals — a silver in women’s speed skating in 1964 and a bronze in women’s short track skating in 1992 — in its history.

Establishing the Olympic scholarship program in the 1960s, the IOC provides cash support to impoverished nations like North Korea to encourage participation of all countries in the international sports event.

The IOC is willing to support North Korean athletes again for the 2012 London Olympics, the committee said in the e-mail, adding it will accept applications from September this year.


North Korea Google Earth

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

North Korea Uncovered v.16
Download it here


The most recent version of North Korea Uncovered (North Korea Google Earth) has been published.  Since being launched, this project has been continuously expanded and to date has been downloaded over 32,000 times.

Pictured to the left is a statue of Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  This statue, as well as many others identified in this version of the project, was built by the North Koreans. According to a visitor:

From the neck down, the Kabila monument looks strangely like Kim Jong Il: baggy uniform, creased pants, the raised arm, a little book in his left hand. From the neck up, the statue is the thick, grim bald mug of Laurent Kabila (his son Joseph is the current president). “The body was made in North Korea,” explains my driver Felix. In other words, the body is Kim Jong Il’s, but with a fat, scowling Kabila head simply welded on.

This is particularly interesting because there are no known pictures of a Kim Jong il statue.  The only KJI statue that is reported to exist is in front of the National Security Agency in Pyongyang.  If a Kim Jong il statue does in fact exist, it might look something like this.

Thanks again to the anonymous contributors, readers, and fans of this project for your helpful advice and location information. This project would not be successful without your contributions.

Version 16 contains the following additions: Rakwon Machine Complex, Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory, Manpo Restaurant, Worker’s Party No. 3 Building (including Central Committee and Guidance Dept.), Pukchang Aluminum Factory, Pusan-ri Aluminum Factory, Pukchung Machine Complex, Mirim Block Factory, Pyongyang General Textile Factory, Chonnae Cement Factory, Pyongsu Rx Joint Venture, Tongbong Cooperative Farm, Chusang Cooperative Farm, Hoeryong Essential Foodstuff Factory, Kim Ki-song Hoeryong First Middle School , Mirim War University, electricity grid expansion, Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground (TSLG)” is also known as the “Musudan-ri Launching Station,” rebuilt electricity grid, Kumchang-ri suspected underground nuclear site, Wangjaesan Grand Monument, Phothae Revolutionary Site, Naedong Revolutionary Site, Kunja Revolutionary Site, Junggang Revolutionary Site, Phophyong Revolutionary Site, Samdung Revolutionary Site, Phyongsan Granite Mine, Songjin Iron and Steel Complex (Kimchaek), Swedish, German and British embassy building, Taehongdan Potato Processing Factory, Pyongyang Muyseum of Film and Theatrical Arts, Overseas Monuments built by DPRK: Rice Museum (Muzium Padi) in Malaysia, Statue de Patrice Lumumba (Kinshasa, DR Congo), National Heroes Acre (Windhoek, Namibia), Derg Monument (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), National Heroes Acre (Harare, Zimbabwe), New State House (Windhoek, Namibia), Three Dikgosi (Chiefs) Monument (Gaborone, Botswana), 1st of May Square Statue of Agostinho Neto (Luanda, Angola), Momunment Heroinas Angolas (Luanda, Angola), Monument to the Martyrs of Kifangondo Battle (Luanda, Angola), Place de l’étoile rouge, (Porto Novo, Benin), Statue of King Béhanzin (Abomey, Benin), Monument to the African Renaissance (Dakar, Senegal), Monument to Laurent Kabila [pictured above] (Kinshasa, DR Congo).

Figure-skating in the DPRK

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Dreams of a North Korean Kim Yu Na
Daily NK
Yoo Gwan Hee, from South Pyungan in 2008

One of the things people tend to notice about South Korea is the number of athletes who proudly represent the country on the international stage. Besides the Olympics or the Asian Games, a variety of international sporting events are held here. It is a good thing to have world-class athletes in a country, and Kim Yu Na, the figure-skating fairy, is just such a person these days in South Korea.

When people hear the story about Kim Yu Na, they almost always ask me, “Is there figure-skating in North Korea?” Of course! Although they may not be as well-known as the judo athlete Kye Soon Hee or the track star Jung Sung Ok, there are accomplished figure skaters, even professional teams, in North Korea.

In commemoration of Kim Jong Il’s birthday (February 16th), the “supreme holiday for the people,” the “Mt. Baekdu Cup International Figure-skating Celebration” has been held every year since February 1992.

After the “March of Tribulation” in the mid-1990s, North Korea ceased supporting most of the international events that it had been sponsoring, but has put on the “Mt. Baekdu Cup” celebrations without fail. 2009 heralds the 18th consecutive commemoration.

The “Mt. Baekdu Cup” celebration, in conformity with the rules of the International Skating Union (ISU), has four main categories–men’s and females’ singles, pairs skating, and ice dancing. Including participants from the North, the host country, athletes from Russia, Hungary, Belarus, Ukraine, and other former East European Communist nations, and a portion of other European countries also take part in the event.

The event has always been held at the “Pyongyang Skating Rink” in the Botongkang district in Pyongyang. Having opened in April 1982, it accommodates up to 6,000 people and is the largest ice rink in the country. It also opens to general Pyongyang citizens on holidays.

Figure skaters in North Korea are usually associated with the National Joint Athletics Team, the Pyongyang Athletics Team, and the Walmido Athletic Team. Most of them are Pyongang-born. Because skating rinks are not so common in North Korea and figure skating requires professional training, children from the Youth Physical School, who belong to the Pyongyang Skating Rink or the Pyongyang Locomotive Athletic Team Skating Rink, are chosen.

Among the trainers, some of them are former figure skaters, but others have dance backgrounds. Just as Kim Yu Na learned ballet to help with her “expressiveness,” North Korean figure skaters also learn to dance.

Reflecting the general reality of the education system in the North, figure skaters also mostly come from affluent homes. In order to train, they have to eat well, first and foremost, and have to be able to afford not only the necessary items for training, but also compensations to trainers, such as liquor, cigarettes, or means of living. In particular, before entering professional teams, parents are in charge of all costs, which is a difficult burden for average households.

The athletes lead group-based lives in the teams to which they belong. During training, if there is evidence of some kind of a flaw or poor results, then self-criticisms or ideological education is stressed.

Among North Korea’s figure skaters, none are as internationally renowned as South Korea’s Kim Yu Na. Looking at the individual rankings announced by the ISU on the 7th; the only ranked North Korean skaters are the pair Tae Won Hyuk-Lee Ji Hyang (the 83rd). The reason for their low ranking, apart from their actual skill, can be attributed to their participation in only one international competition sponsored by the ISU in the last three years.

Han Jung In, who was a flag-bearer alongside South Korean female speed skater Lee Bora in the 2006 Torino Winter Olympic Games, was also a famous male figure skater in North Korea. As for female skaters, there is Kim Young Sook, ranked 96th in the world last year.

The background music used by North Korean figure skaters is always revolutionary song. Consequently, the audience at the international competition fails to understand the music. The athletes who participate in the “Mt. Baekdu Cup” celebration have to select songs that demonstrate devotion to and adoration for Kim Jong Il. Sometimes, the lyrics of songs, such as “February is spring,” a very well-known song admiring Kim Jong Il, are removed and only the tunes are used.

Wanting a star such as Kim Yu Na to emerge from North Korea is something that may have to wait until the next generation. Asking North Korean children, who struggle for survival, to show sporting potential is most unfair.

In Pyongyang nowadays, countless students from pre-school to high school are preparing for a commemorative performance, “Arirang.” While Kim Yu Na is realizing her dream of being the world’s top figure skater, Pyongyang’s children have to prepare several months for a performance, the purpose of which is to promote the regime and earn foreign currency.

I hope the day comes soon when North Korean children can follow their dreams, like Kim Yu Na, without any political or economic restraint.