North Korea breaks through its “stigma” on disabled people with its first athlete at the Paralympic Games in London, AFP is reporting.
Left arm and left leg amputee Rim Ju-song was given a wildcard entry to compete in the 50m freestyle swimming event. Rim couldn’t swim before starting training only in April. Kim Sung Chol of the North Korean Paralympic Committee told Asahi Shimbun that Rim “sank like a rock” during his first training session but that he eventually began learning the crawl stroke in May. He learned the breastroke in two weeks in order to qualify for the Paralympics and was given a wild card slot.
“He has been training very hard but I don’t know what will happen,” Kim, also the team doctor, told AFP. “But the main thing is that we are participating to experience the Games,” he added.
South Korean activists accused North Korea of isolating disabled persons in housing camps and kept out of Pyongyang. But athletes such as former table tennis star Li Pun Hiu has been an inspiration for the country’s disabled people. “Healthy or disabled, if you have the will to succeed, there is no obstacle in your way,” Li said.