October 06, 2014 11:09
North Korea ranked seventh in the medals count at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon after winning 11 gold, 11 silver and 14 bronze medals, its best performance since coming ninth in Busan in 2002.
The last time the North won more than 10 gold medals was in the 1990 Asiad in Bejing with 12.
North Korea's outstanding performance this year seems due to the regime's focus on sports since leader Kim Jong-un, an enthusiast, came to power in 2012. The North has been using sports to boost national cohesion as well as a diplomatic tool to improve relations with other countries.
Kim said in July that athletes would play an important role in improving inter-Korean relations by participating in the Asian Games.
The state-run media all prominently featured the achievements of North Korean athletes throughout the games, starting with the 3-0 victory in men's football against China on Sept. 15.
Football matches were the center of North Korean media coverage. When the North Korean women's team beat Japan 3-1 on Oct. 1, state TV played the footage at midnight on Oct. 2. It is rare for the tightly-controlled media to manage live coverage of international sporting events or even re-runs so soon after the original match.
The North Korean athletes returned to Pyongyang on Sunday to a hero's welcome. North Korean media reported that "hundreds of thousands" of Pyongyang residents welcomed them.
The athletes were paraded in triumph through the streets of Pyongyang.
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