33 headlines back in June 2012 when fellow Ryanggang Province native Park Ye-joo described a variant on Kang’s wood gathering. The anecdote offered a refreshing insight into the entertaining side of childhood in North Korea. Effectively backcountry skiing, it was, she said, so much fun that a lot of children would be out on the hills every day of the winter. According to Kang, some local people in northern provinces are even adept at manufacturing their own skis. A simple but time-consuming process, it involves soaking and hewing tree trunks into skis and poles before simply lashing them to one’s shoes. It’s probably not what Kim Il-sung had in mind when he told people to take Juche to heart, but it gets the job done. “Self-reliance,” indeed! Such anecdotes show how sports intertwine with daily life in North Korea. But that shouldn’t be a surprise: Sports intertwine with life almost everywhere, and sporting achievements are sub- ordinated to political goals all the time. In my own Seoul district of Dongdaemun-gu, a raft of street-side banners currently hail the victory of local two-time Olympic 500m gold medal-winning speedskater Lee Sang-hwa, at least one of which — “Congratu- lations to the Daughter of Dongdaemun, Lee Sang-hwa!” — was put up by the local branch of the opposition Democratic Party. In North Korea, of course, there is only one political game in town, the regime of Kim Jong-un. The value of sports is not lost on them, either; any and all sporting achievements are promoted as symbols of DPR Korea’s national might, as well as exemplifying the largesse of the leader. Nationalist and socialist regimes have long seen sports as a good way of symbolizing strength, perhaps because such shows of power are easier to achieve than actual economic and social development. This is why they have been high on the agenda in Pyongyang ever since those six medals at London 2012. There was a ticker-tape parade to welcome the victorious returning ath- letes, after which the country created its own State Sports Guid- ance Commission with considerable fanfare in November that year, and has since been energetically engaging with sporting themes on all levels. Indeed, my own research shows a signifi- cant uptick in the number of articles on sporting matters carried by the daily publication of the Korean Workers’ Party under Kim Jong-un when compared with the same period five, 10 and 15 years ago, an early indication of the perceived importance of sports to the Kim regime’s sustainability. As far as skiing is concerned, all propaganda roads lead to Ma- sikryong, the pass in the North’s Gangwon Province where the Kim government swiftly constructed a new ski resort immedi- ately after coming to power. Although an alcohol-fuelled Dennis Rodman was recently spotted riding a Ski-Doo there, as were, presumably somewhat more sober, members of the Moranbong Band, the television coverage of the construction and opening of the ski resort focused instead on the role of Kim Jong-un in driving the project forward at “Masikryong Speed,” offering guid- ance at every turn and generally parlaying one of the worst-kept secrets in the country (“He studied in Switzerland, you know!”) into propaganda grist to the mill of governing legitimacy. The only problem with sporting propaganda, of course, is that it takes a lot more than a bit of creative thinking on the part of the Party Propaganda and Agitation Department to have North Korea winning medals at the Winter Olympics, no matter how good the off-piste slopes of Ryanggang Province may be. Kim’s men had better start thinking about where to take their sporting story next, since the 2018 Winter Olympics will take place in the South, and it certainly wouldn’t do to get left behind. Hair consultant from UK. Trained at Vidal Sassoon and TONY&GUY in UK Hair Salon in Sinchon