Tokyo -- not surprisingly, the arrival of 22 north Korean athletes for the winter Olympics in pyeongchang, South Korea, was greeted by a large swath of the news media. Journalists compete to guide the envoys from one of the world's most closed countries.
As with much known about north Korea, its national sports program has been overshadowed by propaganda and limited openness. But a patchwork of information from the country's official news media, analysts, defectors and athletes competing with north Korean athletes gives some insight.
Who are the north Korean athletes competing in pyeongchang?
This year, only two members of the north Korean delegation, the figure skating duo Ryom tae-ok and Kim ju-sik, qualified for the games. They finished last fall in obersdorf, Germany. The rest, including short-track speed skaters and alpine and cross-country skiers, were waived by the International Olympic Committee. More than a dozen other north Korean players have joined the south Korean women's ice hockey team. Few, if any, north Korean athletes are expected to make the podium.
今年，朝鲜代表团中只有两名运动员，即花样滑冰双人组合廉太钰(Ryom Tae-ok)和金柱希(Kim Ju-sik)的成绩有资格参加冬奥会。他们在去年秋天德国奥伯斯多夫的比赛中取得了名次。其余的运动员，包括短道速滑选手和高山及越野滑雪选手，均被国际奥委会(International Olympic Committee)免去了资格限制。还有十余名朝鲜运动员加入了韩国女子冰球队。外界预计，朝鲜运动员中即便有人登上领奖台，人数也很少。
Why did north Korea send athletes?
For north Korea's leader, Kim jong-un, their participation in the games could be a triumph of propaganda at a time when the country is diverting attention from its nuclear program and human rights abuses.
Just by participating in these high-profile competitions, north Korea can come across as more empathetic, said Lee sung-yoon, a professor of Korean studies at Tufts University.
“只用参加这些广受关注的比赛，朝鲜就能给人更有同理心的印象，”塔夫斯大学(Tufts University)朝韩研究教授李成允(Lee Sung-yoon)说。
Because they are so poor and backward, we tend to be interested in everything about north Korea, Mr. Lee said. "And when they're working really hard, you tend to cheer them on because they're completely vulnerable in many ways."
How has north Korea performed in the past Olympics?
North Korean athletes have competed in the games on and off since Han pil-hwa won a silver medal in the women's 3,000-meter speed skating race in 1964. North Korea won its first of only two MEDALS at the winter Olympics. In 2014, north Korea did not send athletes to the winter Olympics in sochi, Russia.
North Korea did better at the summer Olympics, winning a total of 54 MEDALS in judo, weightlifting and gymnastics. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, north Korean athletes won seven MEDALS.
Who is north Korea's most successful athlete?
North Korea won a total of 16 gold MEDALS. One of the most famous gold medalists is Hong un-jong. She won a gold medal in vault at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She also became an Internet sensation after taking a selfie with the south Korean gymnast Lee eun-ju at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
朝鲜总共获得了16枚金牌。最著名的金牌获得者之一是洪恩贞(Hong Un-jong)。她在2008年北京奥运会上获得了一块跳马金牌。此外，她还因为在2016年里约奥运会上与韩国体操运动员李恩珠(Lee Eun-ju)自拍而在网上走红。
In 1996, Kye sun-hui became the youngest person ever to win a judo gold medal when she won gold at the Atlanta games. She also won silver and bronze MEDALS in Sydney, Australia, in 2000 and Athens, Australia, in 2004.
North Korea has excelled in judo: at the 2012 London Olympics, An kum-ae, 32, unexpectedly won gold in the women's 52-kilogram category.
North Korea is also a big weightlifter. At the London Olympics, north Korea won three gold MEDALS. North Korean weightlifters won four MEDALS at the Rio Olympics.
North Korea's women's soccer team is ranked 11th in the world. But the north Korean women's team was banned from the 2015 World Cup after five players tested positive for steroids.
Isn't Kim jong-il said to be an excellent athlete?
According to north Korea's official media reports, the current leader, Kim jong UN's father, Kim jong il is a very talented sports fan, located in the north Korean capital Pyongyang bowling alley for the first time (effort Lanes) is perfectly scored 300 points, the play golf for the first time it had a hole in one, five times under par 38 shots were obtained. Who knows what he would have achieved if he had competed in international judo or weightlifting.
In international competitions, north Korean athletes who win must attribute their success to their leader and country.
What do we know about north Korean sports?
Analysts who study north Korea say the country typically recruits athletes from children who show talent on school playgrounds. They were trained to be athletes in a similar way to other communist countries such as China or the Soviet union. The military, police and some factories also form their own sports teams.
North Korea is very poor, so its state sports system is probably underfunded compared with China or Russia. Russian athletes have been accused of doping (Russia is nominally barred from pyeongchang because of a complex state-sponsored doping program). When athletes on the north Korean women's soccer team tested positive for steroids in 2015, officials attributed it to a traditional Chinese medicine containing musk used by athletes hit by lightning.
Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Waseda University in Tokyo and an expert on the north Korean leadership, said family loyalty could be as important as athletic ability in the north Korean sports system.
东京早稻田大学(Waseda University)教授、研究朝鲜领导层的专家重村智计(Toshimitsu Shigemura)表示，在朝鲜的体育系统中，家庭的忠诚度可能与运动能力同等重要。
Athletes tend to come from families that adhere to the country's ideology and have ties to the bureaucracy, says Mr Shomura.
The north Korean government is focused on sports that it believes can excel internationally, including wrestling, martial arts and soccer.
Do north Korean athletes get special treatment?
Christopher Green, a north Korea analyst in Seoul, South Korea, said that for athletes and their families, joining the elite of sports is likely to be "a way to ensure a decent life in north Korea."
An yong-hak, An ethnic korean-born athlete who played for north Korea's national men's soccer team from 2002 to 2012, said that when he trained with other players in Pyongyang, "there was always a lot of meat, fish, rice, soup, vegetables and so on." In a country where hunger is still common, such a hearty meal is a privilege for team members.
Hwangbo Young, a 38-year-old former north Korean women's ice hockey player who defected to South Korea in 1997, said that athletes who brought honor to the north Korean government might even receive rewards like cars or houses, but they were very limited.
It's very rare, Mr. Huang said, "only for athletes who have won gold MEDALS in major international events like the Olympics or the World Cup."
Will they be punished if they don't perform well?
There are rumors that athletes who fail in international competitions are banished to coal mines or labor camps, but there is little evidence to prove this.
Udo Merkel, a senior lecturer in the sociology of sport at the University of Brighton, said that even if the athletes did not perform well, they would still make an appearance in later international competitions. "So I don't believe the story of them being put in prison," Ms. Merkel said, "because six months later, in the next qualifying match, you will still see the athletes and their names."
布赖顿大学(University of Brighton)研究体育社会学的高级讲师乌杜·默克尔(Udo Merkel)表示，运动员即使表现不佳，还是会在之后的国际比赛中亮相。“所以，我不相信他们被关进监狱的故事，”默克尔说，“因为半年后，在下一场资格赛中，你还会看到那些运动员和他们的名字。”
In 2010, for example, the north Korean men's soccer team lost 7-0 to Portugal at the World Cup in South Africa, a match that Pyongyang reportedly broadcast live. According to an, the goalkeeper who scored seven goals is still on the team. However, there are reports that the team received six hours of public criticism in Pyongyang.
How can north Korea afford sports?
Katharine H.S. Moon, a professor of political science at Wellesley College, said that shortly after Mr. Kim came to power nearly six years ago, he "really started putting money and political energy and time into developing internationally competitive athletic skills."
韦尔斯利学院(Wellesley College)的政治学教授凯瑟琳·H·S·穆恩(Katharine H.S. Moon)表示，近六年前，金正恩掌权后不久，他“真的开始把金钱以及政治精力和时间投入到培养具有国际竞争力的运动技能上了”。
According to an analysis of north Korea's state budget reports by Curtis Melvin, a senior fellow at the U.S. -korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Mr. Kim has been making steady investments in sports, spending about 6 percent of the state budget last year.
根据约翰·霍普金斯大学国际问题高级研究学院(Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies)美韩研究所(U.S.-Korea Institute)高级研究员柯蒂斯·梅尔文(Curtis Melvin)对朝鲜国家预算报告进行的分析，金正恩一直在体育方面进行稳定投资，去年的国家预算约有6%用于体育。
Since 2012, north Korea has built a new skating and roller skating stadium, soccer academies and an equestrian club. It also renovated a large stadium in Pyongyang with volleyball, table tennis and basketball courts. (Dennis Rodman, the American basketball player, sang "happy birthday" to Mr. Kim at the stadium during his visit to north Korea in 2014.)
Jean h. Lee, a former Associated Press bureau chief in Pyongyang who is now a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said that when she visited the new rink in 2012, she found it "very advanced and well maintained." She said she had seen Canadian and european-made ice dressers, as well as high-end figure skates and ice hockey shoes, suggesting the north Korean government had found a way around sanctions to buy luxury goods.
前美联社(Associated Press)平壤分社社长、现华盛顿伍德罗·威尔逊中心(Woodrow Wilson Center)全球研究员吉恩·H·李(Jean H. Lee)表示，2012年她参观那个新溜冰场时，发现它“非常先进，维护得很好”。她表示，她看到了加拿大和欧洲制造的冰面修整器，以及高档花样滑冰鞋和冰球鞋，这表明，朝鲜政府找到了绕开制裁、购买奢侈品的途径。
Mr. Kim has also built the masealing ski resort, where some south Korean athletes trained with north Korean athletes last week.
How much do athletes see in the countries they visit?
When the north Korean figure skating duo lim tae-yu and Kim jo-hei trained with their french-canadian coach Bruno Marcotte in Montreal during the summer, Mr. Marcotte's wife, the champion figure skater Meagan Duhamel, took them to shopping.
当朝鲜花样滑冰双人组合廉太钰和金柱希夏季在蒙特利尔跟着法裔加拿大教练布鲁诺·马科特(Bruno Marcotte)训练时，马科特的妻子——花样滑冰冠军梅根·迪阿梅尔(Meagan Duhamel)曾带他们去购物。
The 12 north Korean women ice hockey players who joined the south Korean team may catch a glimpse of the relative wealth of their south Korean teammates.
Caroline Park, 28, a canadian-born member of the team, said that when she and her teammates trained with the north koreans at the end of last month, they ate together every day. Parker said she noticed that the north koreans didn't have cell phones.
Further on, Han kwang-song, a member of north Korea's national soccer team, is on loan to perugia, Italy. In Italy, he also got a taste of social media: he has a private Instagram account, @han.k.s.32.
Have any north Korean athletes defected?
No north Korean athletes defected during the games, though one defected at the 1991 world judo championships in Spain. Hockey player huang baoying defected to South Korea via China with his family in 1997.
Athletes are carefully screened before they are allowed to compete in international events. Even if they wanted to defect, they would be closely watched by north Korean minders. South Korean security forces will also be on alert in pyeongchang, as neither side wants reports of defections that weaken the message of the alliance. Even though north Korean women ice hockey players don't live in the same dorm room as their south Korean teammates.
Beyond that, said Benjamin Young, a doctoral candidate at George Washington University who has written about the north Korean athletes program, the athletes "have families in north Korea, and they are the most loyal and well-treated people to the regime."
曾就朝鲜运动员计划写过文章的乔治·华盛顿大学(George Washington University)博士候选人本杰明·杨(Benjamin Young)说，除此之外，运动员们“还有家人在朝鲜，他们是最忠实于这个政权、获得良好待遇的人。”