North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

London Calling

A North Korean table tennis official throws a towel toward South Korean journalists during the team’s practice in London on July 23, 2012, ahead of the Olympic Games. (Yonhap)

DPRK state media reported that Minister of Physical Culture and Sports, Pak Myong Chol, departed Pyongyang on 21 July (Saturday) to attend the summer Olympics in London.  According to KCNA, the country has “51 athletes qualified for the 2012 London Olympic Games.”  The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union [ABU] announced on its website that the DPRK will secure broadcasting rights for the London Olympics this week.  Current ABU President Kim In-kyu, who is also president of the Korean Broadcasting System, will travel to the DPRK on 24 July (Tuesday), along with ABU Secretary-General Javad Mottaghi and ABU Sports Director John Barton, to finalize a licensing agreement with Korea Radio Television [KRT].  According to Yonhap, “Kim’s visit marks the (Unification) ministry’s first approval of North Korean travel by a South Korean since a group of people were allowed to enter the country to pay tributes after the death of Kim Jong-il late last year.”

Korean Broadcasting System President Kim In-kyu (c), the current President of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, will travel to the DPRK during 24 to 25 July with ABU Secretary General Javad Mottaghi (L) and ABU Sports Director John Barton (R) to finalize a London Olympics broadcast license agreement with the DPRK (Photo: ABU)

Meanwhile on Monday (23 July), as athletes steadily arrived in London, a coach of the DPRK’s table tennis (ping pong) team threw a towel at South Korean news photographers shooting the team’s practice.  The DPRK coach also used a classic phrase of the country’s official rhetoric telling the photographers, “You’re not supposed to shoot us before the tournament.  If you keep doing this, we will not sit idly by.”  Yonhap reports:

North Korean table tennis officials here on Monday reacted angrily to South Korean journalists who attempted to take pictures of their practice ahead of the upcoming London Olympics, in the latest display of strained ties between the two countries.

North Korean table tennis players had practice at ExCeL South Arena, which will also serve as the venue for the Olympic competitions from July 28 to Aug. 2. As South Korean photographers began to capture the players in action, an official threw a towel toward them and yelled, “Don’t shoot.”

“Why can’t you Koreans understand Korean language?” said the North Korean official. “You’re not supposed to shoot us before the tournament. If you keep doing this, we will not sit idly by.”

Athletes’ training sessions are open to members of the press. When South Korean journalists complained to the local organizing committee, however, an official said the North Koreans’ refusal to allow journalists to cover their practice should be respected.

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