Most athletes faces are left beaming when they achieve the honour of Olympic gold – but North Korean medalist Ri Se-Gewang’s expression was a little more ambiguous.
As reported by the Daily Mirror, the gymnast took top honours in the vault category but looked pretty dejected on the podium.
Many pointed out that Ri looked as though he was fighting back tears, not of joy or pride in his achievement, but of sadness – and some viewers think they know why.
Based on the reputation of his home nation – the tragically ironic Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – people have suggested Ri has tasted the freedom of life outside the secretive state, and in completing his goal all that is left is to return.
One Olympic fan is quoted by the Mirror as posting online:
He has seen the free world but he knows that he must go back, for the sake of his family. For that, he is brave.
— Sara Cordoni (@CordoniSara) August 15, 2016
Poor fella, I do wish him the best. No one deserves to live in fear and sadness, all people in the world deserve hope and freedom.
We are human beings, we are supposed to help each other, this, this is not winning, this ain’t pride, this is fear represented through a camera targeting an North Korean athlete. Respect.
That may sound pretty presumptive with little knowledge of Ri’s life under the rule of dictator Kim Jong Un, but the reported behaviour of North Korean officials does little to rebuff speculation.
According to Radio Free Asia, a North Korean representative collected all the Samsung mobile phones intended as gifts for competitors to restrict the athlete’s ability to communicate with the outside world.
It is also alleged North Korean participants were banned from visiting tourist attractions – which is desperately sad if true given how few North Koreans are given the opportunity to travel internationally.