Thursday 22 March 2018

North Korea: The ‘people are angry’ after Olympic flag gaffe

The South Korea flag, left, displayed beside North Korea soccer player Song Hui Kim, and the North Korea flag, right, beside the same player after it was changed
The South Korea flag, left, displayed beside North Korea soccer player Song Hui Kim, and the North Korea flag, right, beside the same player after it was changed
LOCOG have apologised after a mix-up with the North Korean flag, correct one is pictured here, before kick-off. Photo: PA

Barney Henderson, John-Paul Ford Rojas and Jacquelin Magnay

NORTH Korea says its "people are angry" over the gaffe in which the South Korean flag was shown at the Games by mistake.

The North Korea women's football team walked off last night after the South Korea flag was mistakenly displayed before their match, delaying the kick-off by over an hour.

"Of course the people are angry," said Ung Chang, the North Korean representative at the International Olympic Committee in London.

"If your athlete got a gold medal and put the flag probably of some other country, what happens?"

The two Koreas are divided by the world's most militarised border and remain technically at war after an armistice stopped the Korean War in 1953.

Locog blamed a video producer from a production company for the row. Organisers refused to name the person responsible but said they had offered to resign over the gaffe.

IOC president Jacques Rogge insisted it was a "simple human mistake" and "there was no political connotation".

British Prime Minister David Cameron today sought to play down the blunder, saying it was an "honest mistake" and adding: "We shouldn't over-inflate this episode. It was unfortunate, it shouldn't have happened, and I think we should leave it at that."

But North Korean coach Gun Sin Ui stressed the gravity of the incident and said he planned to take the matter up with Locog as well as Fifa, world football's governing body.

Mr Ui said: "Our players were announced with their photos and names alongside the South Korean national flag. The national flag difference is a big problem.

"Our team was not going to participate unless the problem was solved properly. Unfortunately it took some time later for the broadcast to be done again properly and we made the decision to go on with the match."

Asked whether he believed the wrong flag had deliberately been used, Ui said: "That was the question I was going to ask Locog and Fifa.

"We were angry because our players were shown as if they were from South Korea which affects us very greatly."

The flag incident has been extensively reported in the South Korean media with headlines such as "North Koreans enraged by the mistake".

A Locog spokesman said yesterday: “Today ahead of the Women’s football match at Hampden Park, the South Korean flag was shown on a big screen video package instead of the North Korean flag.

"Clearly that is a mistake, we will apologise to the team and the National Olympic Committee and steps will be taken to ensure this does not happen again.”

Meanwhile it was suggested that the players may have felt under pressure to "make a fuss" over the mix-up - for fear of being sent to the gulag if they did not.

Korea analyst Aidan Foster-Carter said: "If those footballers had not made the sort of protest they did, they would have a risk of questions being asked when they got back home and perhaps being taken to a not very nice place."

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