North hammers a political foul ball

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North hammers a political foul ball

One of the neatest things about having a sports column is that you get to write on a subject that you never lose interest in. At least that is my take and also the fuel that keeps my engine going, because believe me when you have nothing to work with ― no motivation ― it is pretty hard to rev up that engine. It takes more than an editor breathing down your neck.
Finding stuff that piques my interest is not the walk in the park some of you might imagine. Sometimes, you analyze a player’s stats; you might be looking for a trend that hints at why the Boston Red Sox closer, Kim Byung-hyung, is struggling. Sometimes, you visit stadiums to watch the national soccer team kick around the ball to get a feel for who is hot. Nothing. Then you happen to scan the newspaper headlines and suddenly you find stuff that starts the wheels of the mind rolling.
Like the other day, when I read that North Korea had reversed its plans to compete in the 2003 Universiade in Daegu that began today.
The whole fiasco started when our dear neighbors announced a few days ago that a Seoul protest held on Friday by conservatives condemning the North convinced them that they could not send their star athletes to a place where their security and dignity were threatened. After demanding an apology, the North got one from President Roh Moo-hyun the next day. The North’s trip is back on.
(I know, I know, this is a sports column. I’ll get to that.)
But first I have to ask: When was the last time we got an apology for the repeated threats all of Seoul would be burned? Those threats were issued by none other than North Korean generals ― top government officials, so to speak, not some demonstrators experimenting with democracy.
Yes, North Korean flags were burned. Yes, people chanted anti-North slogans. Yes, a Kim Jong-Il puppet took a few kicks in the rear end. But these were not government-sponsored threats. People in the Seoul demonstration expressed whatever was on their mind, but of course the North does not have this problem as everyone, it seems, is always on the same page. How a nation with a population of 22 million has managed that is simply beyond me.
Living in such harmony must be great. Our spies should not waste their time figuring out where all the nukes are. Instead, finding why prolonged discord in the North is so undetectable might solve all of our differences of opinion once and for all.
Sports should be free of politics yet for the North there is no separation. How many times have we seen North Korean athletes crying aloud for “Our beloved leader” when they have won gold medals.
It does not stop there. Think Tiger Woods is the god of golf? I once read that North Korean sports officials claimed that Kim Jong-Il had finished one round of golf with 54 strokes.
Tiger Woods finished with a 61 at last year’s PGA Grand Slam. He averages a 68. Looks like our beloved leader Kim Jong-il still has time to beat the best golfer in the world.
This will not be the last time sports is used as a tool for political propaganda, used to gain concessions. Did you know that South Korea sponsors a support team catering exclusively to North Korean athletes, at just about every competition they enter in South Korea? All that brotherly love does not seem to mean much to the North.


by Brian Lee
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