Flags, feuds and frictions: North Korea and the London 2012 Olympics


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Merkel, Udo (2014) Flags, feuds and frictions: North Korea and the London 2012 Olympics International Journal of the History of Sport, 30 (15). pp. 1810-1822. ISSN 0952-3367

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The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London with 51 athletes. They won a total of six medals and finished 20th in the overall medal table. However, most observers of the London 2012 Olympics will not remember North Korea’s athletic successes but the flag blunder that kicked the Games off with a diplomatic row. On the first day, the South Korean flag was accidentally displayed next to the faces of the North Korean women’s football team on the stadium’s huge screen. Although there have been several flag controversies and blunders in the context of the Olympic Games, this incident must be considered as one of the most embarrassing and high-profile as, technically, North and South Korea are still at war having signed only an armistice at the end of the Korean War in 1953. This paper deals with three interrelated issues: first, it outlines the development of inter Korean political and sporting relations since the 2008 Beijing Olympics before, second, it focuses on the political significance of the 2012 London Games. Third, it summarises key themes and ideological messages emerging from a qualitative analysis of the state-controlled North Korean media coverage of the 2012 Olympics. The Korean Central News Agency appears to pursue a dual strategy: it aims to increase the popularity of outstanding North Korean athletes and create home-grown stars, and also attempts to encourage an alternative discourse about the country abroad. All these issues need to be analysed in wider context of significant political changes in both Koreas, particularly in the North, where Kim Jong-un, who came to power in December 2011, has started to carve out a distinct identity and forge his own leadership style.

Item Type: Journal article
Uncontrolled Keywords: North Korea; foreign policy; diplomatic row; KCNA media coverage
Subjects: L000 Social Sciences > L300 Sociology > L311 Sport and Leisure
T000 Eastern, Asiatic, African, American and Australasian languages, literature and related subjects > T300 South Asian studies > T330 South Asian society & culture studies
L000 Social Sciences > L300 Sociology
L000 Social Sciences > L300 Sociology > L310 Applied Sociology
L000 Social Sciences > L300 Sociology > L330 Ethnic studies
L000 Social Sciences > L300 Sociology > L390 Sociology not elsewhere classified
L000 Social Sciences > L600 Anthropology > L610 Social and Cultural Anthropology
L000 Social Sciences > L700 Human and Social Geography > L710 Human and Social Geography by area > L712 Human and Social Geography of Asia
DOI (a stable link to the resource): 10.1080/09523367.2013.796453
Depositing User: Converis
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2015 03:01
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2015 09:33
URI: http://eprints.brighton.ac.uk/id/eprint/13245

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