Sports and North Korea
An article on Guardian Unlimited by Jon Herskovitz discusses the role sports plays in North Korea. Sports, like most every other aspect of daily life in the North, is used a means of strengthening loyalty and group cohesion. The basic idea is to inspire awe among the masses. According to the article:
The impoverished North, however, is much happier playing the role of David where its rare victories are attributed to the teachings of pudgy leader Kim Jong-il and its losses are blamed on a playing field made unfair by its foes.
Dongseo University’s Brian Myers comments on the role North Korean nationalism plays in all this:
“North Korean nationalism does not boast that North Koreans are physically superior to other races,” Myers explained. The North’s propaganda spreads the message of being morally superior.
The article explains how North Korea’s conception of sports-as-a-means-to-bolster-regime-legitimacy, a concept so foreign to us in the rest of the world, is born and propagated:
Sports are often associated with organs of the ruling communist party, featuring competitions with farming collectives, factory workers and soldiers. Its best athletes are celebrated for upholding “the dignity of the nation”.“Sports constitutes a powerful driving force in firmly preparing the entire people for national defence and labour,” its official media said, citing the teachings of state founder Kim Il-sung.The North relishes the role of underdog. When one of its athletes or teams achieves even moderate success, it makes the most of the victory, proclaiming it a result of the state’s military-first policy and its self-reliance ideal called “juche”.