Yet again, the North Koreans are angry with America. Not about our muscle flexing military drills or the UN embargo on crude oil and modern technology. No, this time, the socialist regime is flustered because we took away their access to sports equipment.
And it could have some ominous implications for the prospect of “peaceful relations.”
Communicating with the hermit kingdom and its [supposedly] divine leader Kim Jong Un is not only difficult, but it’s also an extremely dangerous business. One which Donald Trump has handled like a child in a battle tank, threatening the reclusive nation with “fire and fury” and total destruction without giving a second thought to all of the diplomatic work he’s crushing under tread.
Among the flurry of threats Trump has slung at North Korea, is also a string of new sanctions. One of which tagged “sports equipment” onto the list of trade restricted items. This political exertion of force elicited a furious response from North Korea’s National Sports Guidance Committee (NSGC).
“The heinous sanctions targeting the sports area of the DPRK, which the U.S. pursues by instigating its vassal forces, are an act that destroys modern civilization while seeking to overthrow the DPRK's ideology and system and completely shut out our people from enjoying proper cultural life,” it said in a press release.
Usually it isn’t hard to disagree with the propaganda turning out of North Korea. But that last bit, about shutting off their people from “proper cultural life” is disconcertingly cogent. Because, believe it or not, sports are extremely important to the North Koreans. When they aren’t spending their limited funds on nuclear missile tests, or on Kim’s heinous cheese fixation, North Korea actually invests considerably in developing their national sports teams.
"Sports activities that promote friendship among peoples of the world and development of human civilization should not be abused in any case for sinister political purposes."
Kim Jong Un is not only a huge fan of sports, but also, both he and his father are quote two of the most athletically talented and accomplished human beings in history unquote.
The former, Kim Jong Il, reportedly sank five hole-in-one shots in a row the very first time he picked up a golf club, bowled a perfect 300 his first time bowling, and at the age of seven was a master marksman. If that wasn’t incredible enough, Kim Il is also attributed with having “developed the technology [of soccer]” all by himself. And his son, Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s current leader, is a chip off the old block — having won an international yachting competition at the ripe age of nine.
Except, there’s a lot to be sarcastic about here. Despite their bombast and falsities, these outlandish ‘Kim-myths’ outline one very important aspect of this socialist dynasty: they really love sports. So much so, the rulers lie to their people to make them believe they are incredibly good at them. So much so, Kim Jong Un regularly invites athletes like Dennis Rodman to visit him, and has aspirations to make North Korea an international “sports power.”
However misguided, this fondness for all things sports could be a bonding opportunity — a common ground upon which the international community might be able to connect with the hermit kingdom, like a father connecting with his troubled son over a game of catch. It may be wishful thinking, but perhaps the answer to all of the tension and anxiety simmering on the Korean peninsula, lies on the field of friendly competition.
Well, an ideal olive branch has emerged, in the form of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, which will be hosted in PyeongChang, South Korea. They’ve extended an invitation to the North, and the world is eagerly waiting to see what happens. If Kim decides to play nice and send his nation’s athletes to the games, it would be both a step towards healing the relationship between the North and the South, and the first time a nation has hosted athletes from a country they are at war with.
It would be an historic event, and a huge diplomatic success. All in the name of sports (of which some demand to keep politics out of).
Unfortunately, these latest sanctions may have scuttled all hopes of that actually happening, even though the 2018 Olympics will be held a mere 50 miles from the North Korean border. And if they aren’t participating, some fear that North Korea might try and sabotage the games instead.
There’s no simple solution. But one question seems to stand out among the thicket: is it actually worth it to embargo sports equipment in North Korea? Does it really serve to make Kim’s life harder? Or to make America any safer?
All it seems to do is starve his people of recreational resources — goods that could have a profound impact on the suppressed lives of the North Korean general population. Sports are a way to escape reality, to get involved and forget for a few moments all of your worldly fears and stresses. And who could possibly need that kind of escape more than the exploited and repressed citizenry of North Korea?
The NSGC was blunt about their disdain for the trade restrictions: “Sports activities that promote friendship among peoples of the world and development of human civilization should not be abused in any case for sinister political purposes.”
Of course, that’s all party propaganda, but it’s propaganda that strikes an honest cord — because, honestly, it might be better for the world, and the idea of peace, if sports were left out of political sanctions. There are better ways to undermine the Un dynasty if that’s what America is after, than to deprive his abused people of a means of diversion.
And with the 2018 Winter Olympic games looming, now more than ever, seems like the perfect time to give the leader a reason to focus his attention on the nation’s athletic capacity, instead of nuclear missiles and devious schemes.