Sport in North Korea
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Historically, North Korea's participation in international sporting events has been hindered by the relations with South Korea. Until the 1990s, North Korea used to host up to 14 international events every year, albeit in small scale. Since the early 1990s, the amount was reduced to just one, the Paektusan Prize International Figure Skating Festival. More recently, since the 2000s, North Korea both participates in and hosts more international competitions.
In recent years, however, cooperation in sports has gotten better. Since the early 2000s, North Korean athletes have openly worn sporting equipment with logos of foreign brands on them. In 2017, North Korea complained to various international sporting associations that sanctions against it imposed by the United States unfairly prevent it from buying professional sporting equipment.
Marathon running in North Korea began in earnest in 1975 when Choe Chang-sop won the Košice Peace Marathon in Czechoslovakia becoming the greatest athlete in North Korea at the time. The Pyongyang Marathon has been held in April since 1981, with some interruptions. North Korea performs strongly in the women's marathon in international competitions. Jong Song-ok's 1999 gold medal at the women's marathon at the Seville World Championships in Athletics remains the country's only athletics medal at a major competition.
1966 World Cup
In 1965, the national football team advanced to the FIFA World Cup held in England. After sixteen teams withdrew from qualifying in the Asian/African Zone, the North Korean team had a two-game series against Australia in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The North Koreans won both games and qualified for the World Cup.
In the quarterfinal round, the North Koreans faced the Portugal national football team. The North Koreans scored three unanswered goals in the first 24 minutes. Portugal needed a four-goal effort by Eusébio to pull out a 5-3 victory.
2010 World Cup
The Chollima did not qualify for any further World Cup finals until they advanced to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Both Koreas qualified for the 2010 finals, but they were in different first-round groups. The second-round knockout stage of the tournament was set up so the two Korean sides could not meet till the semifinals. The North Korea team failed to get past the group stages, finishing bottom of the group and losing all three matches.
North Korea has domestic leagues for both men and women, and all games take place at Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang. Traditionally major teams in the men's league include April 25, Pyongyang City, and Rimyongsu Sports Club.
In September 2010, the first official friendly match between a domestic football team and a foreign club took place in the Kim Il-sung Stadium. In these two matches Singapore-based German All Stars (GAS) played two matches against the 2nd and 3rd team of Pyongyang. The matches ended 1-0 respectively 4-2 for the Korean side. GAS Midfielder Matthias Bertl became the first German footballer to ever score a goal in the DPRK and also the first ever to score two goals. Further first-time records were set by Rene Schieber with the first ever shot on goal by a German footballer and Hendrik Bohne being the first footballer to nutmeg a DPRK player during an official match. As part of the team Simone Magnani become the first ever Italian to play a friendly in the DPRK. The Team was led by Florian Schmidt as the Captain for the opening match and consisted further of Steffen Schacher, Ingo Hartmann, Joerg Buenzel, Dr. Hermann Bergmann, Denis Mecklenburg, Philipp von Pein, Helge Muenkel and Thomas Berner in addition to previous mentioned players.
Since 1993, the women's football team has seen more success on the international stage than the men's side, qualifying for the 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. In 1999, the team defeated Denmark during the group stage, and in 2003 defeated African champion Nigeria. The women's team has established itself as one of the strongest in Asia, winning the 2001 and 2003 AFC Women's Asian Cups after finishing as the runner-up in 1993 and 1997.
In September 2010, the Middlesbrough Ladies football team toured the country for a series of friendlies. They played two matches, unaware that they would be playing professional sides. They played April 25 Sports Club, losing 6-2, and Kalmaegi, losing 5-0. The visit gave Middlesbrough their largest ever attendance, with both matches attracting 6,000 people each, beating the previous record of 1,000 when they played Arsenal Ladies.
North Korea is also active in basketball, with a national team that represents the nation in international competitions.
The current and previous leaders of DPR Korea were known for their fondness of basketball. Kim Jong-Il was said to have a video library of every game Michael Jordan played, and was presented with a ball signed by Jordan by Madeleine Albright in 1998. In December 2013, former American basketball professional Dennis Rodman visited North Korea to help train the national team after he developed a friendship with President Kim Jong-un during his first visit to the country in February 2013. Kim Jong-Un has met with the five-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer several times.
Short track speed skating and figure skating are winter sports that North Korea performs well in. Performance in the Winter Olympics has however remained modest, which is described as "surprising" given the mountainous geography of North Korea.
The Paektusan Prize International Figure Skating Festival is hosted annually, a practice that continued even through the 1990s when hosting all other international sporting events was suspended.
Hockey was introduced to North Korea by visiting Soviet and Chinese workers in the 1950s. Since then, North Koreans have competed in international events. Hockey is a popular pastime in the country.
Success of the North Korean national ice hockey teams has been limited. North Korea has a men's team that is ranked 45th out of 49 in the IIHF. A domestic ice hockey league began operations in 1955, the same year the Ice Hockey Association of the DPR Korea was founded. Clubs are based in such cities as Pyongyang, Kaesong, Kanggye and Nampho.
North Korea has one golf course in use: the Pyongyang Golf Complex. The course is 18 holes and 20 miles from Pyongyang. In 2011 the first DPRK Amateur Golf Open took place and is now an annual event, open to nationalities from all around the world.
North Korea at the Olympics
North Korea's first Summer Olympics appearance on its own was in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, taking home five medals, including one gold. Four years later, in Montreal, the nation took one gold and one silver in boxing, and took five medals in boxing, freestyle wrestling, and weightlifting in Moscow. In 1984, the nation joined the Eastern bloc boycott of the Los Angeles Games, and four years later, boycotted the Games held in Seoul due to the South's unwillingness to co-host the event with the North. Despite a mostly unified Communist boycott in 1984, Cuba, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Nicaragua, and Seychelles joined the North Korean boycott in 1988.
The nation returned to Olympic competition in 1992 at the Barcelona Games, winning an unprecedented nine medals in Spain, four of them gold.
At the Sydney Games in 2000, and in Athens four years later, the North and South marched together in the opening and closing ceremonies under the Unification Flag, but competed separately. North Korea has medaled in every Summer Olympics they have participated in.
North Korean athletes have competed in several Winter Olympics competitions as well, first competing at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. Han Pil-Hwa took silver medal in the women's 3000 meters of speed skating at the game. Another North Korean Winter Olympic medal was a bronze in 1992 at the Albertville Games when Hwang Ok-Sil took third place in the women's 500 meters of short track speed skating. The North and South again marched under the Unification Flag at the Turin Games in 2006.
In October 2013, Kim Jong-un introduced a new policy that allows successful athletes to receive luxury apartments in recognition for their achievements. The reward was given to Om Yun-chol, An Kum-ae and Kim Un-guk, who earned Olympic medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
In 1995, a crew from defunct national professional wrestling promotion World Championship Wrestling, led by company Executive Producer Eric Bischoff and former World Champion Ric Flair among others, flew to Pyongyang via China to participate in an "International Peace Festival" co-organised by North Korea and Japanese politician Antonio Inoki, himself a former professional wrestling icon. Over the course of two days, WCW played to an audience of 340,000, at Pyongyang May Day stadium, the largest ever audience for a professional wrestling show, with a main event on the final night of Inoki vs. Flair, with a guest appearance by boxing icon Muhammad Ali.
Matches from the two shows, as well as footage from inside Pyongyang and a mass gymnastic display, were released on pay-per-view and VHS some 17 months after the event, entitled Collision in Korea, and though the PPV performed dismally, pulling a 0.15, the VHS release has become something of a cult hit among longtime wrestling fans and North Korean culture enthusiasts, the atmosphere of the show being so radically different from American wrestling's usual bombast and pageantry.
Sport in North Korean cinema
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