NORTH KOREA or to give it its formal recognised title of The People’s Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK- for short) has a population of around twenty-five million and a not dissimilar medal record in Olympic boxing to its main political ally The People’s Republic of China, whose population is around 1.4 billion! Not a bad record then.
DPRK, a self–standing socialist state which has moved away from main stream communism (whatever that means these days) as it used to be, exists in a rather isolated and somewhat secret world of its own and is said to be suspicious and nervous about many western views and policies and for that matter other similar ideologies aligned to western thinking.
That said, the DPRK is a keen sporting country, following football, table tennis, wrestling, weight lifting, martial arts and boxing among other pastimes. Its record in Olympic boxing is very good, given the general lack of competition with other countries on its home soil. Boxers flex their muscles in a variety of Asian tournaments as well as on the Olympic stage , so they need to attain high standards in somewhat isolation if they are to win medals at the world’s biggest and most prestigious events.
DPRK is a relative newcomer to the Olympic family not entering until the Munich Games of 1972. They have entered ever since, apart from their boycott years of 1984 and 1988, which could conceivably have disrupted their overall preparations and medal potential. They made good strides in their early Olympic days and were in some ways a surprise package on the biggest world stage. Talent, focus and no doubt political prestige have spurred their entrants on towards medal success; no mean achievement for a so called largely “sporting outcast”.
In 1972, light-flyweight, Kim U-Gil won silver, while four years later, gold was won by bantamweight, Gu Yong-Ju and he was complemented by light-flyweight, Li Byong-Uk who took silver. Medal fortunes dipped somewhat thereafter, and in 1980 one bronze was their sole tally, Li Byong-UK securing one again in the light-flyweight division..
Fast forward to Barcelona in 1992, skipping the boycott years and gold and bronze were achieved, perhaps suggesting that their self-imposed exile for eight years may not have affected their performance in any real way. Choi Choi-Su won gold in the flyweight division with Li Gwang-Sik taking a bronze in the bantamweight class..
In more recent Games fortunes have not favoured the DPRK that well with only a single bronze in Sydney 2000 and a silver in Athens in 2004. Light-flyweight Kim Un-Chi and featherweight Kim Song-Guk [pictured] being their medallists respectively.
Will they bounce back in Rio in 2016 or will they again struggle to “cut it” again in the top level competition, only time will tell this summer.
Overall not bad Olympic boxing credentials for a country much in self-imposed isolation, but one with fierce national determination which might help focus its attention on getting back on the medal table once more and letting the rest of the sporting world know that this curious country is still very much in the hunt.