Is North Korea in the Olympics?

 A stamp from North Korea celebrating olympic athletes. Editorial credit: rook76 /
A stamp from North Korea celebrating olympic athletes. Editorial credit: rook76 /

Does North Korea Compete in the Olympics?

The first appearance of North Korea in the Olympics took place in 1964 during the Winter Olympics. In 1972, the country’s second appearance was in the Summer Olympics. Since then, North Korea has attended all the Summer Olympic Games except in two instances. The first exception was in 1984 when Russia (then the Soviet Union) led a boycott of the Olympics that took place in Los Angeles in the United States. The boycott had been a retaliatory action to the US-led 1980 boycott of the Summer Olympics held in Moscow. The second time that North Korea missed Summer Olympics was in 1988 during the Games in Seoul, South Korea. However, the attendance of North Korea in the Winter Olympics has been infrequent. Out of the 12, North Korea attended only seven. Most recently, in 2010 North Korea participated in the Winter Olympics held in Vancouver.

The Performance of North Korea in the Olympics

The total number of medals that North Korean athletes have won is 56. Two out of the 56 were won during Winter Olympics whereas the rest were won during their participation in the Summer Olympics. North Korea’s performance in the Olympics has been outstanding given its poor economy. In fact, in 2016 the medals won by North Korea rated higher than its GDP per capita. That year they won two gold medals, three silver medals, and two bronze medals totaling to 7 medals. The medalists in 2016 include Rim Jongsim (Gold), Ri Segwang (Gold), Om Yun Chol (Silver), Choe Hyosim (Silver), Kim Kukhyang (Silver), Kim Songguk (Bronze), and Kim Son-I (Bronze). The Winter Olympics North Korea medalists were Han Pil-Hwa (Silver) and Hwang Ok-Sil (Bronze). In any case, North Korea qualifies for the 2018 Winter Olympics; they have permission to cross the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into South Korea.

Organization of the Olympics

North Korea has never hosted the Olympics. However, it does have its own Olympics Committee which is part of the International Olympics Committee. In 1988, North Korea requested to co-host the Seoul Olympics with South Korea. However, the IOC rejected the country’s proposal. In disappointment, they boycotted the Seoul Summer Olympics. Despite the tension between North and South Korea, they marched together under the Korean Unification Flag at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games, the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, and the 2006 Torino Winter Games. Nevertheless, the North and South Korean athletes have never competed together in any Olympic sport.

North Korea’s Participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics

Just like North Korea was denied the opportunity to co-host the Seoul Olympics with South Korea, it will not co-host the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics with South Korea either. It is not yet clear whether North Korea will participate in the upcoming Olympics. The country is yet to qualify for the Olympics with its hopes placed on the duo-skaters named Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik. However, North Korea’s nuclear testing continues to be a major setback to its participation in the Olympics. The world will not be surprised if North Korea boycotts the Olympics again for political reasons.


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