Anchor: In the third of our three-part special on the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics, we take a look at North Korea’s Olympic history. While it remains to be seen if any North Korean athletes will compete in the upcoming winter games, our Park Jong-hong fills us in on the North’s previous achievements.
Report: With the countdown to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea well and truly under way, attention is being drawn to the North’s potential participation and past accomplishments.
It was back in 1964 that North Korea first sent its athletes to the winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
A small delegation of 17 athletes and 22 executives took part. Speed skater Han Pil-hwa won the silver medal in the three-thousand meter event and added a bronze in the one-thousand-500 meter race.
However, the two decades since saw North Korea fail to achieve the same success. Despite taking part in the games in Sapporo in 1972, in Sarajevo in 1984 and in Calgary in 1988, the North failed to capture any medals.
Then in 1992 at the Albertville games in France, Hwang Ok-sil took home the bronze in the five-hundred meter short track speed skating event, which became the last winter Olympics medal for North Korea until the present day.
As for South Korea, it was also during the 1992 games that it won its first-ever winter Olympics medal.
Speed skater Kim Yoon-man made the country proud by winning the silver medal in the five-hundred meter event.
While North Korea got a head start in the medal tally at the winter games, its performance seems to have fizzled out from the 1990s.
Experts say the reason lies in the North’s failure to boost its infrastructure for winter sports.
It is a lot more costly to promote winter sports than summer categories and as North Korea had been going through tough economic times, it couldn’t afford to invest in building ski slopes or buy new equipment. Most or any investment had been made before the 1990s.
However, experts do note the optimal climate in North Korea such as cold weather, heavy snowfall and rugged mountain terrains that are the factors to promote winter sports.
In hopes to rekindle its potential in winter sports North Korea opened its latest ski resort in Masikryong in 2014.
Whether or not North Korean athletes will compete at the upcoming PyeongChang Games in a bid to add to their medal tally remains to be seen.
Park Jong-hong, KBS World Radio News.