DPRK: mixing sport and politics

Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Brian Hennessy, An Australian in China. June, 2010

Despite their government’s public expressions of fraternity towards the dangerously troublesome Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), these days Chinese people are more switched-on to the reality of life in the Hermit Kingdom. It is perhaps an uncomfortable reminder of what life used to be like in their own backyard not so long ago.


DPRK: mixing sport and politics


Although they understand the geopolitical reasons why the DPRK should not be allowed to become a failed state, many informed Chinese laugh awkwardly, and not without a little embarrassment at this paranoid Stalinist state and its insistence on living in the past. They know that the DPRK’s refusal to accommodate itself to the reality of a modern world is a reminder of their own recent history: the Cultural Revolution, its mass distortion of reality, and the doctrinaire cruelties perpetrated in the name of spurious revolution. 

(A note for westerners: Beware of hubris: e.g., the religious crimes, pogroms, and wars perpetrated on our own citizens; World Wars I and II, and the ethnic cleansing which followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. We have nothing to be superior about).

Ask an ageing red guard today (if you can find one willing to talk) about his involvement in this embarrassing episode in China’s history and you will learn how uncomfortable China today is with its past. Emotions of shame, regret, and a sense of having been betrayed by the big lie are buried in shallow graves. Age, the daily struggle to make one’s way in this life, and the cruel realisation that they were manipulated by the Great Helmsman himself, have left their mark. They remember. They look at the DPRK today and remember.

Despite the efforts of the Chinese government to mask it’s recent history, the DPRK today reminds Chinese people of what it was like not so long ago. A time when making revolution was more important than feeding a peasant’s stomach. A time when the leader of the country held God-like status. A time of conformity, fear, and only one haranging explanation for ‘life the universe and everything’. A time when Chairman Mao, Jiang Qing (his wife) and the gang of four ran revolutionary riot all over the country without regard for the basic needs of the people. A time before Deng Xiao Ping’s breakthrough policy of Reform and Opening Up.

I’ve seen the bewilderment on the faces of Chinese people who visit Dandong, a Chinese city on the Yalu River opposite the DPRK border. Their disdain for Kim Jong-il and his paranoid state is palpable. They can’t understand why the Dear Leader refuses to follow the Chinese path of opening up and reform. Materialism, money, and a full belly beats doctrinaire purity any day.

I look at the famous Yalu River bridge. General Peng De Huai led his troops across here on their way to giving the yanks and the UN troops a big fright and a bloody nose during the Korean War. It was communism versus capitalism then. Yesterday the bridge being a link between brother communist countries. Today, it is a divide separating capitalist China from communist Korea. Now China has her boats patrolling the river, day and night. Protecting the Chinese motherland from starving DPRK refugees.

Middle class Chinese people make their way towards vessels moored beside the bridge on their side of the river. They want to see this strange Stalinist state across the water. Although they know that these vessels are restricted to a distance of 50 metres from the DPRK shoreline, they hope for a closer look at this discredited modern anachronism so close to home. They are proud of their own progress over the past 30 years and want to compare.

Social progress can sometimes be measured in unlikely ways. At the present time, Asian nations (including the DPRK) are competing in the Soccer world cup and their matches are televised around the world. Win or lose, Asian sports-fans are proud of their efforts against the more experienced European and South American teams. For example; a few nights ago, the DPRK team lost a match against one of the best teams in the world, Brazil. In the process, the DPRK team earned regional respect for their brave performance against a superior rival. They were not discredited. One proud member of their team however, was filmed fighting back tears of pride and disappointment after the match. A natural release of emotion one would have thought. Nothing worth writing home about.

Oh yes it is! The Chinese were onto this display of emotion and its implications immediately. They knew what might happen next. With one eye looking back to their own recent past, Chinese people responded with a black humour honed through years of powerlessness against their own state. Online doctored photos showing the grieving footballer in hard hat and miners garb said it all: “The coal-mines for you now, comrade”. In this part of the world sport and politics do mix.

And sure enough, within 24 hours all reference to the football game against Brazil was pulled from the DPRK media. 

At face value this is funny. But when you think about it, it is not funny. This is Chinese people laughing nervously at themselves and their recent past. This is Chinese people recognising that the past can always return with a vengeance if they forget who is boss and push the boundaries too far. 

Protest by allegory.

My money is on the Chinese government pulling the Chinese peoples’ intelligent little joke from the internet as soon as it wakes up to its real meaning.

Chinese people are not stupid.

There’s hope.






Theunis Bates. Contributor; AOL News. June 8, 2010    

A Chinese tourist boat pass by a North Korean patrol boat anchored along the river banks of Sinuiju in North Korea, seen from the Chinese border town of Dandong in northeastern China's Liaoning province.

North Korean border guards are accused of gunning down three Chinese citizens along the countries’ border last week. Here, a Chinese tourist boat passes by a North Korean patrol boat anchored along the riverbank of Sinuiju in North Korea, seen from the Chinese border town of Dandong.

China Assails N. Korea for Deadly Border Incident

Tensions are mounting between old allies Beijing and Pyongyang after North Korean border guards were accused of shooting dead three Chinese citizens and injuring another near the two countries’ border last week.

At a news conference today, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said his country had filed a formal diplomatic protest over the incident.

All four Chinese were residents of Dandong, a border town in China’s northeastern Liaoning province, and were shot in North Korean territory, Qin said, “on suspicion of crossing the border for trade activities.”

NK Intellectual Solidarity, a Seoul-based group run by defectors from the north, reported Friday that the Chinese victims had been trying to smuggle copper out of North Korea. Similar shootings in the past have ended with North Korea compensating China with iron ore or fisheries goods, Bloomberg News cited the group as saying.

However, those previous deaths were never publicly condemned by China — North Korea’s largest trading partner and aid donor — suggesting that Beijing is growing increasingly frustrated with the hermit kingdom’s erratic behavior.

The Wall Street Journal reported late last month that Chinese officials were fed up with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s “nuclear theatrics” and his refusal “to copy Chinese market-led overhauls” despite the fact that his nation is close to economic collapse.

It was also revealed today that Chinese authorities are believed to have detained a senior North Korean official for drug trafficking in March. According to the South Korean daily The Chosun Ilbo, a 33-year-old trade official with the last name “Rim” was caught together with four drug dealers in Dandong. He had reportedly hidden methamphetamine inside a kimchi container that he had carried from North Korea to the border city.

“North Korean agents targeting South Korea have been arrested before for their involvement in drug trafficking, but it’s unprecedented for a senior government trade official to be arrested for direct involvement,” Do Hee-yoon, a South Korean human rights activist, told the paper. “The Dandong Customs Office has mobilized customs officials from Dalian to probe all aspects of North Korea-China trade.”

China has not commented on the arrest.

Before the latest incident, the countries’ relationship was already under stress following North Korea’s apparent torpedoing of the South Korean warshipCheonan on March 26, killing 46 sailors. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during a meeting in Beijing last month that “China needs to play an active role in making North Korea admit its wrongdoing,” according to the Christian Science Monitor.

However, despite a multinational team of investigators finding overwhelming evidence of North Korean involvement in the sinking, China has refused to come down hard on its ally. In public, Chinese officials will only say that all sides must show restraint.

In a report issued last month, analysts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said that Beijing was unlikely to step up its criticism because it knows that the collapse of the Pyongyang regime would result in millions of North Korean refugees pouring across the border.



Fears for North Korea’s World Cup coach after team subjected to six-hour grilling

August 2, 2010 – 1:34PM

Kim Jong-hun ... sent to work on a building site.

Kim Jong-hun … sent to work on a building site. Photo: Getty Images

Pim Verbeek may have been grilled by the Australian media after failing to take the Socceroos to the second round of the World Cup, but the former South Korea coach must be thankful he was not coaching their reclusive North Korean neighbours instead.

Reports have emerged the totalitarian state has apparently forced the North Korean coach Kim Jong-hun to work at a construction site.

He was also expelled from the Workers’ Party of Korea and accused of “betraying the Young General Kim Jong-un”, leading to fears for his life, Radio Free Asia reported.

Young General Kim Jong-un is the son of the enigmatic Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, and is expected to take over his father as head of the pariah state.

The players were also reportedly subjected to a stern reprimand from the country’s officials after losing all three of their games in South Africa.

During a six-hour session at the People’s Palace of Culture, each player was individually singled out for their “mistakes” in front of 400 officials, including other sportsmen, women and students, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported.

“Coach Kim Jong-hun and the team’s athletes were made to stand on a stage and other North Korean athletes and students took turns criticising the players,” a source told Radio Free Asia.

“At the end of the session the team members were made to criticise their coach.”

The only two players who escaped the reported beratement were Japan-based stars An Yong-hak and Jong Tae-se, also known as North Korea’s “Wayne Rooney”, the man who cried when the anthem was played before a World Cup game.

Jong Tae-se … avoided punishment as he was in Japan. Photo: AFP

But perhaps the players and coach got off lightly – for North Korean standards at least.

A South Korean intelligence source told Chosun Ilbo previous teams were subject to more severe punishment than their contemporary counterparts.

“In the past, North Korean athletes and coaches who performed badly were sent to prison camps,” the source said.

“Considering the high hopes North Koreans had for the World Cup, the regime could have done worse things to the team than just reprimand them for their ideological shortcomings.”

In South Africa, North Korea went down 2-1 to Brazil, before suffering a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of the Portuguese. In their final game, they lost 3-0 to the Ivory Coast. The group had been labelled the “Group of Death” after the draw was announced in December.

The East Asian country is ranked 103rd on FIFA’s world rankings and last qualified for the World Cup in 1966. They were always considered one of the weakest teams at this year’s competition.





Web Design Brisbane by Internet Thinking