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N. Korean flags wave across Hangzhou

Posted September. 25, 2023 08:57,   

Updated September. 25, 2023 08:57


North Korea, which returned to an international sports event for the first time in five years since the Jakarta Palembang 2018 Asian Games, entered the opening ceremony of the 2022 Asian Games held in Hangzhou, China, on Saturday, waiving its flags. The North Korean national teams entered the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium as the seventh nation out of 45 in alphabetical order, led by boxer Pang Chol-mi and shooter Park Myung-won, holding large flags of the nation. The country’s athletes following the two were also holding the North Korean flags.

The holding of North Korean flags by its athletes at the games is actually in violation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The WADA banned flag raising for North Korea at all international competitions, except for the Olympics and Paralympics in October 2021 as the country’s anti-doping agency failed to meet international standards. For the North to be free from the WADA’s sanctions, on-site inspections of the North Korean anti-doping agency by the WADA should be preceded. However, such inspections haven’t been conducted as North Korea closed its borders due to COVID-19.

The North Korean national teams are ignoring the WADA’s regulations at the Hangzhou Asian Games. From the official event to welcome athletes to the athlete's village, which was held in Hangzhou on Friday, North Korean flags were raised along with other countries,’ including Brunei and Cambodia. The flags were also raised at a stadium where a men’s team table tennis match between the North and Japan was held on the same day. North Korean athletes sang the national anthem facing their flag before Thursday's men’s football group match against Taiwan.

Some believe that the WADA may hold the Olympic Council of Asia and the Hangzhou Asian Games’ organizing committee responsible. “We will try to correct matters related to North Korean flags," Radio Free Asia said on Saturday. "If necessary, actions will be taken against the groups violating the regulations."

While the background in which North Korean flags are raised at the games hasn’t been confirmed, it is believed that the country’s blood alliance with Chins must be a factor. North Korea, which sent 185 athletes for 17 events, is estimated to have the potential to win medals in weightlifting, wrestling, shooting, and boxing.

Heon-Jae Lee uni@donga.com