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The 2018 Winter Olympics and North Korea

Rio+de+Janeiro+-+Representatives+of+North+Korea+at+the+Rio+2016+Olympic+Village.+%28Photo%3A+Fernando+Fraz%C3%A3o%2FAg%C3%AAncia+Brasil%29
Rio de Janeiro - Representatives of North Korea at the Rio 2016 Olympic Village. (Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)

Rio de Janeiro - Representatives of North Korea at the Rio 2016 Olympic Village. (Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)

Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

Rio de Janeiro - Representatives of North Korea at the Rio 2016 Olympic Village. (Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)


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There had been no formal communication between the Koreas for over two years; that was until earlier this month. The talks were not of peace and cultivating friendly relations, not directly anyway. This was about the Winter Olympics which are being held around 180 miles south of North Korea’s capital, Pyeongchang.

When the average person ponders the idea of North Korea in the Olympics, their expectations are likely extraordinarily low whether it be due to the absolute squalor most of the country lives in or the corruption seen at every level of the government.

Most would believe it if you were to tell them that North Korea has never medaled in any event. That is false, and it is exactly why the hermit nation’s Olympic history is all the more impressive. Its population of 25 million, half the size of its southern counterpart, ranks 50th in gold medals per capita. This places them ahead of countries like India, Brazil, and Mexico. Since their first appearance in the 1964 Olympics, they have medaled first 16 times, second 17 times, and third 23 times.

A question that seems to pop into many readers’ heads is how does North Korea have any world class athletes? It is a reasonable question to ask, considering 40 percent of the country is malnourished. However, a small amount of research will reveal that North Korea invests a great deal of money into their athletes and teams.

These may North Korea’s first steps in a new strategy that works towards improving their relations with the rest of the world. It may also be North Korea making peace temporarily so they can participate in the Olympics. Let’s hope for the former.

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The 2018 Winter Olympics and North Korea