A woman walks by a sign promoting the Olympic Games in Tokyo on Monday. Photo: AP/Koji Sasahara
tokyo 2020 olympics

N Korea says it won't take part in Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19 concerns

72 Comments
By KIM TONG-HYUNG

North Korea became the first country to drop out of the Tokyo Olympics because of coronavirus fears, a decision that underscores the challenges facing Japan as it struggles to stage a global sporting event amid a raging pandemic.

A website run by North Korea's Sports Ministry said its national Olympic Committee during a meeting on March 25 decided not to participate in the Games to protect athletes from the "world public health crisis caused by COVID-19."

The pandemic has already pushed back the Tokyo Games, which were originally scheduled for 2020, and organizers have scrambled to put in place preventive measures, such as banning international spectators, to ensure the safety of athletes and residents.

However, there's still concern that the Olympics could worsen the spread of the virus and Japan's rising caseload and slow vaccine rollout have raised public questions about whether the Games should be held at all.

Japan's Olympic Committee said Tuesday that North Korea has not yet notified it that it wouldn't participate in the Tokyo Games.

Katsunobu Kato, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, said the government hopes many countries will join the Olympics and he promised ample anti-virus measures.

South Korea's Unification Ministry expressed regret over the North's decision, saying it had hoped that the Tokyo Olympics would provide an opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations, which have declined amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

North Korea sent 22 athletes to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, along with government officials, performance artists, journalists and a 230-member all-female cheering group.

At the Pyeongchang Games, the North and South Korean athletes jointly marched under a blue map symbolizing a unified Korean Peninsula, while the red-clad North Korean cheerleaders captivated global attention. The Koreas also fielded their first combined Olympic team in women's ice hockey, which drew passionate support from crowds despite losing all five of its games by a combined score of 28-2.

Those games were also much about politics. The North Korean contingent included the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who conveyed her brother's desire for a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a move that helped the North initiate talks with South Korea and the United States.

Diplomatic efforts have been at a stalemate since, and North Korea's decision to sit out the Tokyo Olympics is a setback for hopes to revive it.

While North Korea has steadfastly claimed to be coronavirus-free, outsiders have expressed doubt about whether the country has escaped the pandemic entirely, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China, its economic lifeline.

Describing its anti-virus efforts as a "matter of national existence," North Korea has severely limited cross-border traffic, banned tourists, jetted out diplomats and mobilized health workers with quarantine tens of thousands of people who had shown symptoms.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga previously said he expected to invite U.S. President Joe Biden to the Olympics and was willing to meet with Kim Jong Un or his sister if either attended the Games. Suga, however, did not say if he will invite either of them.

Experts say pandemic border closures have further shocked North Korea's economy, already broken by decades of mismanagement, aggressive military spending and crippling U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons program.

The economic setbacks have left Kim with nothing to show for his ambitious diplomacy with former President Donald Trump, which derailed over disagreements in exchanging the release of sanctions and the North's nuclear disarmament steps.

Kim in recent political speeches has pledged to bolster his nuclear deterrent in face of U.S.-led pressure, and his government has so far rejected the Biden administration's overture for talks, demanding that Washington abandon its "hostile" policies first.

The North ended a yearlong pause in ballistic testing activity last month by firing two short-range missiles off its eastern coast, continuing a tradition of testing new U.S. administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington's response and wresting concessions.

© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

72 Comments
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Were they even invited?

-9 ( +21 / -30 )

When North Korea seems to be taking the pandemic more rationally than the Olympic host there must be something seriously wrong.

Obviously this is just an excuse and the real reasons are more political than health related, but Japan is not in a position to discredit the reasons used while in a situation where the spreading is increasing and there are no measures in sight that could actually guarantee the safety of the visitors (nor the population of Tokyo).

30 ( +43 / -13 )

Relieved. Worried they were coming.

-5 ( +16 / -21 )

Yes! That's the spirit!

21 ( +24 / -3 )

RIP Suga's plan of meeting Kim Jong Un

17 ( +21 / -4 )

There had been talk about the two Koreas fielding a joint national team, but that's not going to happen, obviously. Some people in South Korea have also been campaigning for a boycott for political reasons, some stemming from complaints about Japan refusing to ban spectators from waving the Rising Sun flag at the Olympic venues.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

"N Korea says it won't take part in Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19 concerns"

Or, maybe the North Korean Athletes don't want to be hit by one of North Koreas ballistic missiles in Tokyo?

-18 ( +9 / -27 )

First of many?

30 ( +31 / -1 )

This made me laugh. This site has many NK bashers, but it seems NK is the most smartest country in the world.

9 ( +23 / -14 )

i don’t think much of NK, but on this issue they have got it totally right

29 ( +33 / -4 )

With another wave starting in Japan, NK won't be the first to avoid coming here.

29 ( +31 / -2 )

Obviously this is just an excuse and the real reasons are more political than health related

I agree!

But unfortunately that is sad.

The athletes want to show their skills to the world.

Especially nobody knows much about Sports in North Korea, so for the North Korean athletes the olympics would be a good chance to show their sports and skills to the world.

Politics and Sports should be separate.

-1 ( +14 / -15 )

Good.

7 ( +13 / -6 )

Hopefully this will trigger other countries to do the same. Japan does not have this anywhere close to being under control and it does not make sense for other countries to expose athletes and team members to this negligence.

19 ( +25 / -6 )

When North Korea seems to be taking the pandemic more rationally than the Olympic host there must be something seriously wrong.

exactly!

i don’t think much of NK, but on this issue they have got it totally right

my thoughts exactly

With another wave starting in Japan, NK won't be the first to avoid coming here.

Hopefully this will trigger other countries to do the same. Japan does not have this anywhere close to being under control and it does not make sense for other countries to expose athletes and team members to this negligence.

I couldn't agree more!

10 ( +15 / -5 )

Not to worry. The super-spreader Tokyo Olympics isn't gonna' happen.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

Don't spend any more money on the Tokyo Olympics. Cancel it and divert the funds to rolling out more supplies of SAFE vaccines instead.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Let me enlighten you a bit on North Korea and the Olympics. They sent 31 athletes to Rio and came away with 7 medals, 2 golds among them, 34th I think on the medal list.

for Japan the good news is they got a medal in gymnastics on the vault and one in table tennis. So less competition.

I have been to North Korea and as in every totalitarian state sports is seen a s a means of propaganda.

they are a reasonable force at the Olympics so from a sports point of view they are a considerable loss.

it is also a decision of common sense from North Korea which has no doubt also other reasons, but so has nearly every other country

9 ( +15 / -6 )

As bad is North Korea is, they are smart (UNLIKE JAPAN)implimenting serious measures...Japan could learn something from North Korea!

4 ( +13 / -9 )

virusrexToday  10:19 am JST

When North Korea seems to be taking the pandemic more rationally than the Olympic host there must be something seriously wrong.....

Firstly, any information coming out of NK can't be trusted. You'd make this same statement for any other data coming out of that country, but when it comes to using those numbers to criticise Japan, it's suddenly legitimate.

Secondly, for a country of 126 million Japan is far down the list of countries that have "messed up" their handling of the virus. In fact Japan's common use of masks pre-dated COVID by decades, and the adherence to them and using hand sanitiser and distancing puts other countries to shame. Try looking at what is actually being done at street level by real people instead of jumping on the Japan hate bandwagon and blaming half baked reactionary political efforts.

Btw, I always read your comments with a voice muffled through 2 masks and the sound of hands rubbing alcohol gel.

-8 ( +8 / -16 )

 In fact Japan's common use of masks pre-dated COVID by decades, and the adherence to them and using hand sanitiser and distancing puts other countries to shame. 

Social distancing? In Japan? You are kidding, right? I've not seen any serious social distancing in this country at all at any point in this pandemic.

18 ( +22 / -4 )

In other Japan-North Korea News today...

Japan announced this morning it will extend it economic sanctions on North Korea for another 2 years due to the continued stalemate on the nuclear weapons, missile over-flight tests, and abduction issues.

Any coincidence that NK is now snubbing the Olympics on the same day?

COVID is just an excuse.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

What is actually being done at street level ?

ok. Watered down gels and liquids everywhere. Useless cheap temp guns which never seem to turn red for anyone. Self awarded and printed stickers even at the most dirty and ugly restaurants.

the only measure that works is the masks, but government has little to do with that. Strange how I can see none of the Abe masks anywhere anymore. Wasn’t there an investigation into that ?

15 ( +21 / -6 )

No loss at all.

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

cheap temp guns which never seem to turn red for anyone

Do you understand that this things turn red if people have fever ONLY?

Do you understand that if the thing is NOT turning red, the guy in front DO NOT have a fever?

Or do think that people who are going out and stand in front of that thing must have a fever?

Sometimes I am really surprised about some posts here.

-16 ( +6 / -22 )

Still no cases ever in NK?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Well done North Korea. Never thought I'd be saying that

2 ( +9 / -7 )

Why? Kim will be safe. It is not like he is overweight?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Strange how I can see none of the Abe masks anywhere anymore.

Mine went straight into the trash and I don't think I ever saw anyone else wearing one. Someone made a lot of money though.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Been reading a book about North Korea recently, and one fact is, that the country is financially struggling (and has been for a really long time), poverty in North Korea is extensive. With COVID, I wouldn’t be surprised if the situation is even more grave, and if that’s also one factor in this; sending a team of athletes and their coaches, doctors etc abroad, in neat&new uniforms, is relatively expensive. Maybe there are no funds.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Good riddance.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Kumagaijin,

I’ve kept my abenomask in its packaging, untouched. Will be a sign of the times and something to remember when I’m elderly (hoping I’ll make it, of course)!

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Usually I am against everything that comes from the North Korean dictatorship,but exceptionally in this case and for the first and probably only time in my life I agree with their decision.

Japan’s propaganda and denying the number is closer to China and such regimes than full developed free democracies.

Besides North Korea,I hope other countries will boycott the upcoming former Olympics now Japan’s glorified sports day.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

I’m not playing.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Good for everyone. Highly doubtful NK would have come anyway. Covid is a convenient excuse.

Now all we need is for those rogue nations (where state run doping is rampant) - Russia and China to withdraw. Fingers crossed.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

Right,let us rid of all these nations and let Japan win all the golden medals in the name of victory of blindness nationalism over the common sense of fighting a world pandemic.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Was waiting for your anti China/Russia comment. And there we are.

Waiting for your usual pro-China, pro-Putin comments.

Back to you.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

robert maesToday  11:42 am JST

Useless cheap temp guns which never seem to turn red for anyone.

You think because temp guns don't turn red then they don't work? What kind of backwards logic is that?

Did you ever consider they don't turn red because no one has a high temperature?

If you go around in public with the preconceived idea that everyone else but you is probably sick, then you are problem. People are out and about because they aren't sick.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

If the virus spread is not showing any significant sign of slowing down again (it has dropped for a while but picked up quickly), chances are more countries will follow up North Korea to quit the Olympics.

If 1/2 of the world not participating, the Games would lose its glamor..

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Crazy thing is people who are anti-Tokyo Olympics see no problem with Beijing hosting them in 2022.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

Kumagaijin,

I’ve kept my abenomask in its packaging, untouched. Will be a sign of the times and something to remember when I’m elderly (hoping I’ll make it, of course)!

@Vinke Good idea. I just saw an original sealed Mario Bros game went for 660k at an auction. Maybe there is something more to Abe dressing up as Mario.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

They will be missed. Their non participation calls the entire event into question

1 ( +6 / -5 )

@Hillclimber

I 100% agree.

Anyway I am wondering how he knows that this thing never turn red?

Maybe he stands beside this temp measure thing 12 hours a day, day in day out and watch the people standing in front.

The doomsayers think if the machine doesn't show red, the machine is manipulated.

They never think that people are responsible and do NOT go out when they have a fever.

Before Corona, many japanese people went to work evenwith a fever, but now no more.

People are showing responsibility these days, because of Corona.

But Doomsayers will never believe that.

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

ok that’s one more silver medal to share around

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Political and sensible at the same time. Two for the price of one. Can’t beat that.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I just wish that this Olympics will come and go quickly so that people can just move on with life! It’s just causing stress and concern on a daily basis.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Here’s the reason why they’re not ‘playing ball’:

Headline in “Politics- “Japan to extend ban on all trade with N Korea by 2 years” - Today 1:00pm JST
2 ( +4 / -2 )

@Robert....

What is actually being done at street level ?

ok. Watered down gels and liquids everywhere. Useless cheap temp guns which never seem to turn red for anyone. Self awarded and printed stickers even at the most dirty and ugly restaurants. 

the only measure that works is the masks, but government has little to do with that. Strange how I can see none of the Abe masks anywhere anymore. Wasn’t there an investigation into that ?

You’ve nailed it! Well said mate!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Before Corona, many japanese people went to work evenwith a fever, but now no more. 

People are showing responsibility these days, because of Corona.

But Doomsayers will never believe that.

One of the most idiotic generalizations of this year! Clearly this fellow hasn’t been out to offices or on the streets of Tokyo to see the reality! If people are highlighting the facts then you call them doomsayers and it this this kind of ignorance that made COVID 19 out of control in the first place. Downplay downplay downplay and call others doomsayers if they show concern!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

President Moon must be most disappointed. His desperate attempt to hold a summit meet with the North's Kim in Tokyo has been crushed.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Whelp, there went their chance for another opportunity for a medal / propaganda right’s in weightlifting.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don’t see anyone here mentioning the Virus Contamination Rate / Deaths in the North?

Do you think they would TELL you that ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Dang! What are we going to do without them? Guess I'll just have to put on a happy face even though my heart will be aching.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A bit disappointed. Was hoping to see the North Korean athletes' eyes go wild when they saw how awesome Japan is and then defect.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A bit disappointed. Was hoping to see the North Korean athletes' eyes go wild when they saw how awesome Japan is and then defect.

Would not have happened. The NK security detail would have greatly outnumbered the athletes. Plus getting refugee asylum in Japan is not that simple.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Probably a simple reason for this.

North Korea has been constantly stating that there is no COVID-19 in their country and they have everything under control.

With ALL Olympic athletes being tested for COVID-19 every 48-96 hours, it is going to look very suspicious when they all show the markers of having had a historical or current infection on arrival.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Oh No......very disappointed

1 ( +2 / -1 )

North Korea having sensibility, whereas others seem clueless, or hopeful at best.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"Japan to extend North Korea sanctions — including a ban on all trade — by two years"

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/04/06/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-north-korea-sanctions-extension/

The real reason why North Korea isnt coming.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The funny thing about this announcement is that South Korea and Moon are the biggest losers. The South Korea was hoping to meet North Korea in Tokyo. Now that is gone. Moon is finished. The games will go on. The second group of losers are those people who feel you can talk to North Korea.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

That’s O.K. North Korea will still win all of the gold medals anyway.

It’s not about the athletes they field, but about how their media reports it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I just wish that this Olympics will come and go quickly so that people can just move on with life! It’s just causing stress and concern on a daily basis.

Ah, for those halcyon days when the Olympics were the problem, and not a global pandemic.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Out of Cash!!?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

N Korea says it won't take part in Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19 concerns

Translate "COVID-19 concerns" as "concerns about defections".

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Oh no... how will the competition go on without North Korea?? It’s like the FIFA World Cup without Brazil, The Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger... I’m not even going to bother watching it now.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

With the money Kim saves by boycotting the games, maybe he’ll be able to afford a slice of bread for each of his people. Something tells me he’ll opt instead to invest in a new missile to fire into the Sea of Japan this summer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

mikeylikesitToday  07:12 pm JST

That’s O.K. North Korea will still win all of the gold medals anyway.

It’s not about the athletes they field, but about how their media reports it.

Kind of like when they “won” the 2010 World Cup when they scored a late consolation (in a 3-1 loss to Brazil) and celebrated like champions.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They should never have been allowed to compete to begin with.

Great they have finally shown what is the right choice for everyone pity the olympric committee couldnt make the decision for them......................

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Knock NK all you want, they are actually the most intelligent country on this so far. Hope others follow suit soon.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Very good decision. This time I'm on their side. Even if you don't like the person/country but you think they're right, you got to lower yourself your atitude. Sometimes you never know the same situation could occur on you and you will have a very pity face and trembling heart when the people will not side on you.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

virusrexApr. 6  10:19 am JST

When North Korea seems to be taking the pandemic more rationally than the Olympic host there must be something seriously wrong.

Obviously this is just an excuse and the real reasons are more political than health related, but Japan is not in a position to discredit the reasons used while in a situation where the spreading is increasing and there are no measures in sight that could actually guarantee the safety of the visitors (nor the population of Tokyo).

Mr. Marshmallow Head is just playing the old 'fox and the grapes' shtick. He knows his athletes wouldn't win too many medals and that wouldn't look too good for His Pompous Communistmus Assus. WAH.

Even if the Olympics were going on a 'normal' basis without CoVid-19 going on, Kim's puny NK wouldn't have much to offer in the realm of sports competition and he knows it. WAH. WAH. WAH.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

carp_boya

Oh no... how will the competition go on without North Korea?? 

Well, at least in Japan the NK cheerleader squad (all carefully selected) have a big fan club.

Looks like we won't see them this time.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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