ABOUT 80 North Korean athletes have arrived for the Taekwondo World Tournament that is taking place in Kazahkstan, the first large-scale dispatch since the corona crisis.
The athletes and staff who are participating in the Taekwondo World Championships left the country by bus on the 16th August and arrived in Dandong, Liaoning Province, China, which borders the country.
It was believed that they moved to Beijing by train and then headed to Kazakhstan by air on the 18th of this month. That was confirmed by several North Korean officials.
Since North Korea closed its borders in January 2020 as a measure against the novel coronavirus, it has postponed dispatching teams to major international sports competitions.
According to ‘Tokyo Shimbon’ it was then said that North Korea was planning to send 100 athletes to the world championships hosted by the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF).
Officials now say the real number confirmed is 80 people who arrived in Dandong are taking part in the tournament.
After staying at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, they departed for Almaty in the south-eastern part of Kazakhstan on the morning of the 18th, and arrived in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, before the opening ceremony on the 20th.
The tournament started in 18th and will go on up to 26th.
With the dispatch of the athletes, North Korea seemed plan to relax its strict immigration controls. The sponsoring ITF is an organization led by North Korea, and the administration was expected to display.
According to multiple North Korean officials, it was highly likely that the North Korean flag will be hoisted during the opening and closing ceremonies and medal awarding at the ITF World Championships in which North Korean athletes are participating.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctions on North Korea, banning it from displaying its national flag at international competitions other than the Olympics.
By hoisting it is in violation of sanctions, and the international community will inevitably criticize it.
In October 2021, WADA banned the holding of international competitions in North Korea and the raising of the North Korean flag at international competitions, citing that North Korea’s anti-doping agency did not meet international standards due to a lack of readiness.
The lifting of sanctions is conditional on corrective action, including at least six visits by external observers to North Korea’s anti-doping agencies.
However, since North Korea has severely restricted border crossings as a countermeasure against the new coronavirus, the observers have not been allowed to enter the country, and no corrective measures have been taken.
According to multiple North Korean officials, North Korea sent a team of about 100 athletes, one-third of all participants, to this tournament.
The ITF is a North Korean-led organization headed by a North Korean figure. For this reason, North Korean officials expect the flag to be hoisted, and the officials said: “The leadership of the regime also has great expectations (for the hoisting).”
North Korea positions sports as an effective means of enhancing its national prestige, and has set the national goal of becoming a “strong physical education nation”.