Even if absent, the Tokyo Olympics can still feel the presence of North Korea

Tokyo (Associated Press) — North Korea Not at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. There is a story-one of sports and viruses, but the most important one is a complex political story.

Although it did not make the headlines here, North Korea’s absence is worth noting, especially among those concerned about the intersection of sports and diplomacy-and North Korea‘S propaganda machine uses international attention to advance its demand.

Compared with the previous Olympic Games, this absence is particularly eye-catching.Perhaps the hottest story of the 2018 Winter Olympics PyeongchangSouth Korea is the North Korean delegation, which includes 22 athletes, hundreds of cheerleaders and the mighty sister of leader Kim Jong Un.

Coronavirus is the biggest cause North KoreaDecided not to come Tokyo. Has been highly sensitive to infectious disease outbreaks. The country has closed its borders more tightly than usual, fearing that its fragile health care system and shaky economy cannot withstand large-scale outbreaks. In turn, this may endanger the ruling Kim family’s control of power.

But according to analysts, there are other factors at play.

North Korea’s sports, like many parts of the country, are intertwined with its calculations for its pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs targeting the United States.After a brief contact, Kim Jong-un is now worried that another virus will be introduced — a cultural virus from the wealthy south — and may have to wait until next year’s Winter gamesAll of this happened in China, which is its long-term ally, and shares land borders with it.

Kim may also believe that there is no benefit to nuclear diplomacy in the United States. Tokyo Game, because Washington said it has no intention of accepting Pyongyang’s request to end sanctions.

Sports also does not exist in the blank of the north, where domestic audiences are consuming government-controlled information at every step. For propaganda experts trying to maintain domestic unity and regime loyalty, everything there is potential material.

Kim Jong-un may use North Korea’s absence from the Tokyo Olympics to signal to his people that he values ​​protecting them from the coronavirus — in rival Japan, no less — than the glory that his athletes may enjoy.

North Korea Good at promoting international sports events,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor of Korean studies at the Fletcher School of Tufts University in Massachusetts.

So this may be a difficult decision North Korea Without participating in the Tokyo Olympics, “it could have taken a leading role in the propaganda field by sending some athletes, cheerleaders and Kim Yo-jung’s first sister,” Lee said, referring to the leader’s sister Kim Yo-jung.

Missing the opportunity to get promotional points “reflects some serious COVID paranoia”, Joshua Pollack, North Korea Experts from the Middlebury International Institute in Monterey talked about North Korea’s decision not to participate. He said that the country is clearly not ready for delta changes, “and the Olympic Village seems to be a good way to take it home.”

September brings a vivid example North KoreaFear of the virus. Seoul accused North Korea of ​​shooting and killing a South Korean fisheries official found in North Korean waters and then burning his body-a move that clearly complies with anti-virus policies, which involve shooting anyone who crossed the border illegally.

“They don’t have drugs to treat COVID-19, their medical infrastructure is in poor condition, and they haven’t been vaccinated,” said Kim Yeol Soo, an analyst at the Korea Military Research Institute in South Korea. “So they may not think it means participating in the Olympics and winning a few gold medals.”

Geopolitical factors may also be at play. Unlike the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, North Korea He is deeply interested in the hearts and minds that touch the South. Without such a desire to make good relations with Japan, Japan was the violent colonial hegemon of the Korean peninsula before and during the Second World War.

exist Pyeongchang, North Korea There is no real medal contender, but it is one of the most watched countries in the Olympics, and an all-female cheerleader of 229 members highlights a huge delegation.

After these months of tensions between the United States and North Korea before the Olympics, athletes from the two North Koreas entered the Olympic Stadium together under the banner of “unity”. They sent a combined women’s hockey team. Since the end of the Korean War in 1950-53, Kim Yo-jung has visited South Korea for the first time.

Diplomacy has also flourished after these Olympics, which was highlighted by several summits between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un and several summits between Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

However, the results are not many, and North Korea Still facing tough sanctions that weaken its economy. Therefore, although North Korea resumed its suspended communication channels this week and agreed to improve relations, it has rarely contacted its competitors since.

when North Korea It does appear in the Olympics, but sports tends to take a back seat in politics. This country spares no effort to control its athletes and their information, but there are still surprising, unscripted moments of contact with other athletes.exist PyeongchangFor example, the smiling selfies of skaters from North Korea and South Korea went viral on the Internet.

What about the movement itself? North Korea Can see success Tokyo In weightlifting, boxing, women’s wrestling and women’s marathons. However, fear seems to outweigh the expected benefits.

These include concerns about external influences, especially the infiltration of Korean culture into the country. Pollack said: “Today, the contrast between the prosperous South and the struggling North has become less palatable.”

Someone expects North Korea Next year, when China, which is an important lifeline for politics and aid, hosts the Winter Olympics, China will once again get rid of its self-blockade.

If past behavior is an indication, then weapons testing may be conducted in the months leading up to these Olympics. Although North Korea may avoid anything considered provocative during the Tokyo Olympics, it may conduct such tests when American and South Korean soldiers conduct their annual military exercises next month.

“Confrontation before dialogue is always the most effective” North Korea, Said Li, a professor at Tufts University. “I hope the regime can increase its’net worth’-just as top athletes do in international sports competitions-before the Beijing Olympics, show outstanding martial arts performances. Winter games. “

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