A senior North Korean defector has revealed the terrifying fate waiting Olympic athletes who fail their country.
In an interview with The Daily Star Kim Hyeong-soo, who escaped the hermit kingdom back in 2009, admitted the rumours that athletes were harshly punished for ‘failing’ were true.
He went on to add that it’s not just the athletes who end up in the gulag, the coaches do as well, often serving several months hard labour as punishment.
If they had a gold medal of course they would receive a huge benefit like a car, a new apartment in Pyongyang and extra rice.
But if they have a bad result the athletes and the coach can actually be sent for hard labour for several months.
Kim also claims the ruling party spreads lies when their sports teams perform badly.
He explained that North Korea’s infamous 1966 world cup loss to Portugal in the quarter finals was blamed on the team partying the night before.
The team were apparently then locked up and another defector, Yang Chol-hwan, claims to have seen one of the squad in the Yodok gulag.
Mr Kim explained:
They have secretaries or government officials that go with them to these international events… and so if they lose they will actually fabricate a story.
Like they’ll say they went to a nightclub before the match and therefore that’s why they had a poor performance. So they’re criticised and punished for that.
On the other hand if they win a gold medal or are successful, then even if they did do something problematic, they will actually tone it down.
There was speculation at the recent Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last year as to the fate of North Korea’s losing athletes.
Weightlifter Kim Kuk-hyang was reportedly seen crying after winning a silver medal after being beaten by Chinese rival Meng Suping.