December 19, 2018 11:47
North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper dedicated the whole page on Tuesday to an article urging North Koreans to create a basketball boom across the isolated country.
"Promoting basketball is not only a sports-related matter, but an important project that upholds the objectives of the [Workers] Party," the paper said. "We must rush to elevate the sport to global levels," it added.
Basketball is typically played by tall athletes, and North Koreans are on average shorter than their South Korean counterparts because of widespread malnutrition. But now basketball is being touted as a legacy of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who died seven years ago.
One researcher at a state-run think tank said, "North Korea seems intent on promoting basketball to a national sport" because the current leader, portly Kim Jong-un, is a basketball fan.
Kim became keen on the sport when he watched American NBA matches on TV at boarding school in Switzerland in the 1990s.
He formed an incongruous friendship with the eccentric former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who has visited Pyongyang five times since Kim came to power. Kim watched a match with Rodman in tow back in 2013 between the Harlem Globetrotters and a North Korean team.
During the inter-Korean summit on April 27 of this year, Kim proposed basketball exchanges between the two Koreas and a South Korean team traveled to Pyongyang in July to hold a friendly match.
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