For North Korean Skaters, the Short Program Is Part of a Bigger Plan

“This question that many of us grapple with when we look at North Korea,” Nilsson-Wright said, “is to what extent as a sports person do you have the kind of autonomy and freedom and opportunity to express yourself as an individual in this very collectivist environment?”

South Koreans have expressed complicated feelings about North Korea’s participation in these Olympics. But individual North Korean athletes appear welcome, and none more than Ryom and Kim, who are the subject of endless curiosity. Ryom, with her ever-ready smile and red wool coat, might have been the most photographed athlete arriving at the Games.

Some have found in her a comparison to another North Korean visitor, Kim Yo-jong — the sister of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un — who attended the opening ceremony and charmed the South Korea news media without ever speaking in public.

“North Korea will probably use the performance of the figure skaters to boast how much North Korea is getting international attention, just as Kim Yo-jong got the media following her and demonstrated to its people that North Korea has reached a certain status in…

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