A North Korean Olympian’s simple message of unification touched the hearts of many South Koreans, generating a massive online buzz within 24 hours after its video clip was posted online.
Kim Song Guk, North Korea’s competitive shooter, gave a short message following a bronze medal finish at the men’s 50m pistol shooting contest at the Rio Olympics on Wednesday, reported the Straits Times. In the same event, the gold medal was won by South Korean Jin Jong Oh.
“If the two (Koreas) become one, we could have a bigger medal,” Kim said at the post-game press conference. “If both the gold and bronze medals came from one Korea, it could have been a much bigger win.”
The video of his message, shared by South Korean TV channel SBS on its Facebook page on Thursday night, immediately became viral, generating over 160,000 likes and 2.2 million views overnight. The short clip also received over 13,600 comments.
Unification is a known sensitive topic in inter-Korea relations, with the North Korean government even going to great lengths banning a popular unification song recently. North Korean citizens, more so national athletes, are rarely seen commenting on the subject. North Korean athletes are also known to stick to themselves, even at international competitions.
But while Kim’s comment was unexpected, South Korean netizens’ response also came as a surprise, with many praising him for his words and some stating concern that he might get in trouble for his message.
Commenter Ra Hye Jung, said that her heart “ached for him” when she noticed his hesitation before making the comment. “I hope to see him again at the next Olympics,” she said.
“Even though you got a bronze medal, your words deserve a gold medal,” another Facebook user wrote.
Kim’s third place win marked his Olympic debut at Rio. After the game, he congratulated Jin. “I will train hard with the goal of beating him one day,” he said.
The Olympics are a rare opportunity for North and South Korea, which are technically still at war following an armistice end of the 1950-53 Korean War, to have the athletes from both camps interact with one another.
Earlier in this year’s tournament, South Korean gymnast Lee Eun Ju even had a chance to take a selfie with her North Korean competitor, Hong Un Jong.