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ABC News aired a report a few days back suggesting that Olympic athletes from North Korea who fail to bring home a medal may actually be sentenced to time at hard labor.

North Korean athletes who have defected, suggest the success of the country's small contingent of athletes at the games may be the result of a policy of training them from a very young age at specialized schools, backed up by rewards like cars and refrigerators for winners and the threat of labor camps for losers.

North Korea takes its Olympic athletes very seriously.  The Communist Party's Sports Committee rears what it considers to be its most promising prospects practically from birth, assigning them to special schools where all their basic needs are met.

For those athletes who bring home medals, life can become pretty rewarding in this otherwise impoverished nation.  

Upon returning home, gold medal athletes like Kim Un-Guk and An Gum-Ae would be rewarded with handsome prize money, an apartment, a car, and additional perks like refrigerators and television sets.

But most of all, they will be rewarded with a huge jump in social status with the title of "hero" or "people's athlete."

For those who don't bring home the prizes, not so much:

But poor performances, especially losing to their archenemy nations like the United States or South Korea, have consequences. Rumors of athletes being sent directly to labor camps upon arriving home are not confirmed, but it is a common procedure to open "review meetings" after the sports events in which participants "assess" their own and each other's games, said Kim Yo-Han.

If during that process the person is determined "disloyal" to their Dear Leader, the athlete is likely to be expelled from the sports organization and at times sent to labor camps.

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Comment Preferences

  •  How sad. I wonder how many S. Korean (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, chimene

    athletes try to defect, or if they are intimidated by officials who promise that the athlete's family members will receive punishment if they try to seek asylum.  What a cruel world we live in.  The Olympics make everything look so rewarding on the surface, but there is still so much tyranny running underneath.

    Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. - Einstein

    by moose67 on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 02:39:39 PM PDT

  •  I feel sorry for the losing athletes from N. Korea (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mdmslle, Cassandra Waites, G2geek

    North Korean labor camps are not a very nice place. People may actually be killed in them:

    Defectors have described abysmal conditions and horrors such as torture, executions, and starvation. Human Rights Watch estimates about 200,000 people could be held in such camps, where prisoners are often forced to do "difficult physical labor such as mining, logging, and agricultural work ... with rudimentary tools in dangerous and harsh conditions.
  •  Sounds like the Iraqi team under Uday Hussein. (5+ / 0-)

    The IOC seems to have a fantastic habit of not giving a shit about the actual human beings competing in the games.

    These sadists are obviously obsessed with the kind of glory that sport brings, so it's hard to imagine it'd be that hard to pressure them into not torturing their own players. But that would require an IOC that cared enough to do the painstaking work of writing a letter and making a demand.

    •  Good point. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, 2020adam

      You'd think they'd bear some responsibility to make country's answer to such charges and face banning if the answer wasn't very believable.

      The whole "not politicizing the olympics" thing is a bit creepy if you ask me -- did that say that during the Berlin Games of 1936?

      "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

      by Bush Bites on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 04:00:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  what good would this do? (0+ / 0-)

      I can't see the IOC doing any, save by accident (sorry to any worthy IOC staff...)

      but seriously, what could they do, in fact?  Not exactly a police force, are they.

    •  The Saudi woman who competed in judo was (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jayden, G2geek

      a relative newcomer to the sport.

      It's a completely different problem, but what kind of a group sees 'every country fields at least one woman competitor' as more important than making sure someone with under three years in a sport isn't facing someone who really is one of the top one hundred athletes in that sport with the entire world watching?

      Her opponent did show definite kindness in how she herself handled it, and yes it was an affirming moment for her and her countrywomen that she participated at all, but neither of them should have been put in that position in the first place.

      Prayers and best wishes to those in Japan.

      by Cassandra Waites on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 05:06:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My impression was that the N Koreans... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...made a distinction between disappointingly bad performances and merely losing to superior competition.  Otherwise we'd never see any NK olympian twice, since they never win.

    Mitt Romney '12: Berlusconi without the sex and alcohol!

    by Rich in PA on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 04:48:49 PM PDT

    •  "They never win"? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I believe the latest rankings have the DPRK at 4 gold and 1 bronze.

      I know you believe you understood what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. -- S.I. Hayakawa

      by tapu dali on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 05:16:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  the way to understand DPRK is as a theocracy... (0+ / 0-)

    ... that has transformed Korean folk-religious beliefs about respect for and worship of ancestors, into a monstrous parody whereby the nation's founder, "the Great Leader" Kim Il Sung, has become a deity, "Eternal President of DPRK."  

    Compare & contrast to our own attitudes toward our founders: a combination of deep respect for their ideas and their military and political heroics, and criticism over contradictions such as slavery.  

    The interesting thing (to us) about the North Korean theocracy, is that the majority of North Koreans appear to believe it wholeheartedly, even as it oppresses them and deprives them of the necessities of everyday life.  

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 08:45:48 PM PDT

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