www.groovekorea.com / April 2014 32 T he absence of North Korean repre- sentation at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was in noticeable contrast to impressive successes registered by the country’s athletes in London 18 months earlier. Close observers may recall that “DPR. Korea,” as the North likes to be called, walked away with no fewer than six medals from the 2012 summer games, and that four of these were gold. This resulted in the country finishing 20th in the medal standings, something which, on a per capita income basis in particular, was no small feat. This stark imbalance in achievement could lead one to the conclusion that North Kore- ans must be rubbish at winter sports. Actual- ly, this is far from the case. The reality is that North Korean athletes struggle to make an impact in events that have limited practical application beyond the stadium wall, such as short-track speedskating, in which their South Korean brethren have a history of ex- cellence. In other ways, however, they are ahead of the game. Many parts of eastern and northern North Korea are mountainous. This is one of many very good reasons why the Kim regime’s con- ception of “self-reliance in all things,” which Pyongyang likes to pass off as some kind of guiding state principle, is so absurd: There is not enough good agricultural land upon which to realize sustainable food production without outside help. However, it does mean that the country produces many a competent skier. This aptitude has never translated into Olympic medals, but that is because skiing in North Korea has more practical applications. A former resident of northern North Korea and now a department h ead with Daily NK, Ms. Kang used to ski all the time. Some- times she was just having fun, but normally not; free time for adults has been in rather short supply in North Korea for a number of decades. Instead, Kang tends to reminisce about skiing as a good, and sometimes the only, way of getting up and down her local hills to gather wood. It doesn’t bring home the Olympic bacon, but most people aren’t too worried about that: Keeping fires burning is a more immediate concern. Other North Korean refugees, a dispropor- tionate number of whom hail from hilly north- ern places predisposed to snowy winters, record more entertaining experiences. “Now on My Way to Meet You,” a weekly South Korean television show featuring female refugees discussing their lives, made brief THE nORTH KOREA COLUMn edited by Matthew Lamers (mattlamers@groovekorea.com) InsIGHT It takes more than propaganda to breed Olympians Skiing to SucceSS in north korea Column by Christopher Green / Illustration by Wilfred Lee ABOUT THE AUTHOR Christopher Green is the manager of international affairs for daily NK, an online periodical reporting on North Korean affairs from Seoul. The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of Groove Korea. For more information, visit dailynk.com.