The Game for Their Lives

My name is Daniel. I was an English teacher in Seoul, South Korea, and am now a writer who has
published three books including South Korea: Our Story by Daniel Nardini.
                                 Perhaps the best thing was to have never invited the North Korean
teams and athletes in the first place. In just about any other country, if an athlete does not do well
then they can only try to do better next time or may be just quit and try to do something else in
life. However, in North Korea, how athletes perform is considered a reflection on the regime. If
an athlete or team does well they will be rewarded with better housing, more food rations, and
may be even membership in the Korean Workers Party. However, if they do poorly they may see
their food rations cut, being forced out of their apartments and condos to poorer places, or worse
thrown into a slave labor camp. The last prospect is especially terrifying for any North Korean. The
North Korean government wants to present itself as having the “best” athletes and teams in the
world, and laud their success in the government-controlled press when they return. We also know
that those athletes and teams who performed “poorly” would suffer the wrath of the government.
Well, the North Koreans did so poorly that North Korea got no medals from the PyeongChang
winter Olympic games. We saw one instance of a North Korean skater falling down not once but 
twice in the speed skating race. I hate to think what will happen to this poor soul. If the North
Korean team had not gone to the winter Olympics at all, they would have been better off with
not having performed so badly they may now suffer punishments too horrible to speak of.