Bigger than Beijing 2008: politics, propaganda and physical culture in Pyongyang

Udo Merkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


More than six decades after the end of the Second World War, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) still face each other across the highly fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) where the Cold War proved more frigid than anywhere else in the world. In both Korean states, reunification is a high priority political goal and a prominent element of the political and public discourses. However, it is currently a political utopia since the status quo of two coexisting Korean states is beneficial to all parties concerned, not only to the two superpowers, China and the USA, but most of all to the two Koreas. This contribution examines the use of sport as a foreign policy tool before and after the 2008 Beijing Olympics and analyses the symbolic potency of sport in the context of the reunification theme, with particular reference to North Korea's political agenda attached to the staging of mass gymnastic games, i.e. the Arirang Festival that premiered in 2002 and the new 'Prosper the Motherland' show. The largely qualitative research was conducted during several fieldwork periods in South and North Korea between January 2006 and September 2008.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2467-2492
Number of pages26
JournalThe International Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number14-15
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


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