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North Korean shooters in tears after first gold of Games

HANGZHOU – Three North Korean shooters cried their eyes out on the podium after winning their country’s first gold medal of the Hangzhou Asian Games on Thursday.

The trio saluted and gradually dissolved into floods of tears as the red, white and blue North Korean flag was raised in Hangzhou – in contravention of World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) rules.

Paek Ok Sim, Pang Myong Hyang and Ri Ji Ye triumphed in the 10m running target women’s team competition, ahead of Kazakhstan and Indonesia.

It was also the secluded nation’s first gold medal in major international competition since the Covid-19 pandemic, having skipped the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and then been barred from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Another gold soon rolled in for North Korea, this time for gymnast An Chang Ok in the women’s vault. Compatriot Kim Son Hyang took silver.

When the shooters entered the stage for the medal ceremony, the rest of their shooting team, including coaches and team officials, watched from the stands while letting out shouts of joy and waving mini flags.

According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, they also brought with them a large North Korean flag, with officials holding it for the duration of the ceremony.

Yonhap reported that all three shooters refused to speak to or acknowledge the outlet after their competition and also after the prize presentation.

When members of the team were asked if they were from the shooting delegation, “a few of them simply nodded without speaking”, said the broadcaster.

North Korea’s flag was brandished at the opening ceremony and in medal ceremonies at the Games, despite supposedly being banned from doing so over doping violations.

Wada had declared the country’s national anti-doping body “non-compliant” in 2021 and slapped it with sanctions.

They included not being able to fly the North Korean flag at any regional, continental or world sports event, excluding the Olympics and Paralympics.

Last Sunday, Olympic Council of Asia chief Raja Randhir Singh defended the organisation’s decision to allow North Korea to fly its flag.

“We are in discussions with them (Wada) and North Korea has written to them as well explaining their position,” said Singh, the OCA acting president.

“We are explaining from our side as well.

“At present, the North Korean flag is flying and we will look into it and see what the future says.” AFP