Marking its return to international multisport competition after a five-year absence, North Korea dominated in weightlifting at the 19th Asian Games in China.Athletes and officials from the reclusive regime also generated headlines away from the field of play in and around Hangzhou.North Korea had been absent from the past two major international sports competitions. It skipped the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021, citing COVID-19 concerns. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) subsequently banned North Korea from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, saying the country failed to fulfill its duties and obligations as an IOC member state.The ban was lifted at the end of 2022. And because the 19th Asian Games were postponed by a year because of lingering COVID-19 issues, North Korea was eligible to participate in the continental event this fall.
North Korea finished in 10th place in the medal table with 11 golds, 18 silvers and 10 bronzes.At the previous Asian Games in 2018, North Korea also ranked 10th, but with 12 golds, 12 silvers and 13 bronzes.Considering that most North Korean athletes had not been competing internationally for the past couple of years leading up to Hangzhou, their performances across the board come as a surprise.North Korea led all countries with six gold medals and 13 medals overall in weightlifting. Three weightlifters ― Ri Song-gum in the women’s 49kg, Kang Hyon-gyong in the women’s 55kg and Kim Il-gyong in the women’s 59kg ― set world records, too. Pang Chol-mi, one of North Korea’s two flag bearers at the opening ceremony, grabbed her country’s only gold medal in boxing. North Korea’s first gold medal came from shooting, where the trio of Ri Ji-hye, Paek Ok-sim and Pang Myong-hyang won the women’s 10m running target team title.
Their gold was followed moments later by artistic gymnast An Chang-ok, who soared to the women’s vault title.A few South Korea vs. North Korea showdowns materialized at this Asiad, including twice in women’s basketball.The two Koreas had assembled a joint team in women’s basketball to win the silver medal behind China in 2018. A handful of members from the unified team ― Park Ji-su, Park Ji-hyun and Kang Lee-seul for the South, and Ro Suk-yong and Kim Hye-yon for the North ― competed against each other in Hangzhou. Jong Song-sim, the North Korean assistant coach for the unified team in 2018, returned as head coach of her native country this time.The two teams first met during the preliminary round and then again in the bronze medal game. South Korea prevailed both times. After the first game, South Korean players said they felt hurt 슬롯게이밍 and disappointed that North Korean players didn’t acknowledge them.