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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 221 (August 2, 2012)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

N. Koreans Thrilled About Olympic Medals Won by N. Korean Athletes

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Koreans have been excited at news of their athletes' better-than-expected achievements of winning four gold medals and a bronze at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

   "After news of winning two gold medals by North Korean athletes on one day, Pyongyang citizens rejoiced at North Korean athletes' achievements shortly after the grand celebrations to the 59th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War," Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, said on July 31. The victory referred to the conclusion of an armistice agreement that suspended the 1950-53 Korean War.

   According to reports from Pyongyang, a flood of phone inquiries for results of the North Korean athletes' matches hindered officials at the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports from working in their offices. The number of phone inquiries shot up after news of gold medals for North Korean athletes, the newspaper said.

   A man in his 40s living in Pyongyang told the newspaper, "My workplace was engulfed with shouts of joy when I and my coworkers were heard news of winning North Korea's first gold medal."

   The North's official media outlet, the Korean Central News Agency, reported on July 31 that many North Koreans showed their excitement at their athletes' better-than-expected achievements at the London Olympics.

   In an English-language article carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Jong In-ho, a teacher at Kimilsung University said, "I saw with anxiety on TV the DPRK (North Korea) athletes' matches. As the DPRK flag was hoisting higher than others, I got so excited that I could hardly repress my tears rolling down my cheek."

   Another interviewee credited the medals to the leadership of the late Kim Jong-il and the North's current leader Kim Jong-un.

   Yu Jung-ryol, an employee at the Nampho City Power Distribution Station, told the KCNA, "I was told that DPRK weightlifter Om Yun-chol said his success is ascribable to the spirit instilled by leader Kim Jong-il." "I will devote myself to building a thriving nation, true to the leadership of respected Marshal Kim Jong-un, as the gold medalists did for the country."

   North Korea was ranked fifth in the medal table with four gold medals and a bronze medal, as of August 1.

   On July 29, judoka An Kum-ae won North Korea's first gold medal at the London Olympics, taking the women's 52 kg class. An's gold medal was followed by weightlifter Om Yun-chol in the men's 56 kg category and weightlifter Kim Un-kuk in the men's 62-kg class, with a world record total of 327 kg on July 30. Earlier, on July 28, Ryang Chun-hwa won bronze in the women's 48 kg weightlifting. And also, female weightlifter Rim Jong-sim on Aug. 1 wins a gold medal in the women's 69-kg category at the London Olympics with a total of 261 kg.

   In the July 30 event, Kim Un-kuk tied the world record in the snatch with 153 kg and added 174 kg in the clean and jerk for a new world standard of 327 kg. The silver medalist, Oscar Albeiro Figueroa Mosquera of Colombia, finished a whopping 10 kg behind.

   Kim, a 23-year-old army officer who saluted the North Korean flag at the medal ceremony, was the crowd pleaser at the ExCeL Arena during the competition. After his first successful snatch attempt, Kim pumped his fist in the air and flashed a boyish smile. The cheers got louder with each successful lift, and Kim's actions became more pronounced.

   When he set the new world record, the crowd stomped their feet in unison in celebration. Afterward, the loyal soldier credited his country's young leader and marshal with helping him to the top of the podium.

   "I owe it to our greatest commander Kim Jong-un who gave me the strength and courage to be the world's No. 1," the weightlifter said. "Before the Olympics, I had a feeling that I would get the world record here. Kim Jong-un is waiting for the news so I will be pleased to get it to him. The whole country will be happy and the father of the country will be happy too."

   North Korea has sent 56 athletes in 11 sports to London. The country won six medals in Beijing, including gold medals in women's artistic gymnastics and in women's weightlifting.

   The socialist country is on pace to match its record total of four gold and five bronze medals won at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

   At the start of the Olympics, North Korea first grabbed headlines over a flag flap at a women's football game. During the player's introduction before North Korea's group phase match against Colombia on July 25, organizers mistakenly displayed the South Korean flag on the scoreboard. North Korean players refused to take the field for more than an hour in protest.

   Meanwhile, North Korea obtained rights to air the Olympic games across the country from the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU).

   Under the deal with the ABU, the North's Radio and Televison Broadcasting Committee will be allowed to air the games for a minimum of 200 hours during the 2012 London Olympic Games, the non-government organization dealing with Olympic broadcasting rights for North Korea said on July 26.

   The deal came after three local broadcast firms locally sharing the broadcast rights over the Korean Peninsula -- KBS, MBC and SBS -- entrusted the ABU to decide whether the Olympics could be broadcast in the North.

   The decision was announced after Kim In-kyu, the president of South Korea's public broadcaster KBS and chief of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), returned from a three-day visit to the North over the broadcasting issue.

   According to the deal with the ABU, the North Korean broadcasting committee dispatched a staff of six to London to air the games for a minimum of 200 hours.