Keen to emphasize their interest in the development of domestic sport, the North Korean authorities have ordered that previously moribund monthly “Sports Days” be revived and held nationwide.
A source from Hyesan in Yangkang Province told Daily NK on the 16th, “On the 9th they announced one of Kim Jong Eun’s policies; it is that ‘Sports Day’ be held nationwide and without exception on the second Sunday of every month.”
“On this day all units will have to hold athletics events in the playgrounds of local schools or other public areas,” the source added.
“These days were formulaic in the past,” he went on to explain, “but now they’ve said that everyone is going to have to take part. The people who passed the message down said that people must be strong and healthy if they are to act on the Marshal’s leadership, and so we must be faithful participants.”
On March 8th, 1992, Kim Jong Il decreed that the second Sunday of the month be designated ‘Sports Day’ in order to popularize sport in daily life. However, the death of Kim Il Sung and an encroaching famine undermined the effort, and the days stopped being observed except around big national holidays.
“It looks like Kim Jong Eun is trying to revive the day in order to chalk it up as one of his achievements,” one senior defector said of the news. “Like last year when North Korean athletes won gold medals at the London Olympics, future medals earned at international competitions will also be put down to Kim Jong Eun’s enlightened rule.”
The new policy also falls within the political logic of last November’s launch of a State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission with Jang Sung Taek at its head, a move made with considerable fanfare and one that gave an early indication of the new Kim regime’s desire to co-opt North Korean sport for political ends.