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Silly Dictator Story #13: An Olympian Confesses: Kim Jong II Looked Over Me

No, I thank you.
No, I thank you.
“How can any man possibly lift 168 kilograms? I believe the great Kim Jong Il looked over me,” North Korean Olympian Om Yun Chol told the Olympic News Service on July 29 after lifting three times his weight in the men’s 56-kilogram class competition at the London Olympics.

Chol credited the late North Korean leader for his success after lifting 168 kilograms in the clean-and-jerk category -- a feat that puts the North Korean among the weightlifting elite who have hoisted three times their own weight.

As "International Herald Tribune" blogger Mark McDonald writes, “Give too much credit to the father, and the slighted son could be displeased. Praise the new leader too much, and you risk insulting his father’s memory.”

Sounds like Chol knew what he was doing when he praised both the late Kim Jong Il and his son and successor, Kim Jong Un.

“The reason that I’m able to get the gold medal at these Olympics is due to the warm love and consideration of General Kim Jong Il and comrade Kim Jong Un. Because of them I was able to get great strength today,” Chol was quoted as saying by the Olympic News Service.

Unfortunately, as WSJ blogger Evan Ramstad points out, North Korea’s response to Chol’s win failed to equal his enthusiasm and appreciation.

“He lifted 125 kg and 168 kg, respectively, in the snatch and clean-and-jerk events by combining various techniques including quick snatch and fast lifting,” read the eloquently written official statement.

As strange as Chol’s declaration may sound, North Korean athletes (and perhaps anyone who hasn’t defected yet) are known for praising the eternal president of the republic, Kim Il Sung, his late son, the Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il, and the North Korean nation in light of their successes or failures. Chol wasn't playing favorites when he thanked the newly appointed (and newly married!) Kim Jong Un.

The South Korean daily "The Korea Times" reports that North Korean Olympians, whose movements are restricted, are closely watched by escorts.

Weightlifter Pak Hyon Suk was “overjoyed” to bring joy to Kim four years ago when she won the women’s weightlifting 63-kilogram category. However, her teammate O Jong Ae apologized to the North Korean people for failing to bring them joy in 2008 when she was awarded a bronze medal in the women’s 58-kilogram category in weightlifting at the Beijing Olympic Games.

She may just as well attribute her defeat to the fact that Kim Jong Il (who was alive at the time) was not in heaven to look over her.

-- Deana Kjuka

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About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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