Sunday, August 1, 2010

North Korean World Cup Coach Fears For his Life

International sports are supposed to be a bridge of international understanding. Back in 1971, America had no diplomatic relations with China. Stamp collectors couldn't even buy communist Chinese postage stamps. Then an American ping pong team accepted an invitation to play in China, paving the way for further games, and a historical visit by President Richard Nixon to China.

Sports events lead to personal contact between athletes. Additionally, they provide a safe outlet for political and national rivalries.

There is a temptation to exclude "outlaw nations" from international competitions. This is a slippery slope. Many countries have serious human rights issues. China in Tibet, Turkey with their Kurdish population and Pakistan with their Hindu minority all have srious human rights issues. If they were suspended from competition , that would leave over a third of the world's population unrepresented. There is no question that sports, academic and cultural contacts are opportunities for adversaries to experience each other's common humanity.

There is one ironclad exception to isolating an outlaw nation. If a losing sports team is returning to a country that will punish them for their loss, that country should be isolated, barred from international competition, Iraq under Sadaam Hussein used to torture losing athletes. Now North Korea is alleged to be inflicting punishment on iits team that lost at the World Cup soccer match last month. The Toronto Star reports as follows on what happened to the North Korean team upon its return to North Korea.

"In a country that takes perverse delight in punishing its most loyal servants, you could smell the payback coming.

It apparently arrived on July 2, shortly after the North Koreans returned home.

The 23-man roster – minus its two Japanese-based ringers, Jong “Weepy” Tae-se and An Yong-hak – was hauled up on stage in front of 400 attendees at the inaptly named People’s Palace of Culture.

The audience included a large number of university students and athletes, as well as high party officials."

The coach, Kim Jong hun has reportedly been banished to construction work and stripped of his membership in the North Korean Worker's Party. Observers of life in North Korea report that such treatment often precedes an execution. Kim Jong hun, the coach was ominously charged with “"betraying the young General Kim Jong-un,”who as son of Kim Jong il is reportedly being groomed to be the next dictator of North Korea. Radio Free Asia reports that the treatment accorded to the deposed soccer coach shows that his life is in danger. Indeed, the architect of North Korea's disastrous currency reform was similarly humiliated before he was executed.

No decent athlete wants to play a team that might be killed if they are defeated. Yet imprisonment, torture and murder are real possibilities for North Korea's athletes. No country that treats its sports figures in this way deserves to compete internationally. North Korea should be booted from any international sports competition. What they do to their athletes is beneath contempt. Sphere: Related Content

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