Commentator recalls inter-Korean basketball games

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Commentator recalls inter-Korean basketball games

Basketball commentator Park Jong-min makes commentary during an inter-Korean friendly game at Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium in Pyongyang, July 4. / Pyongyang Joint Press Corps

By Kim Rahn, Pyongyang Joint Press Corps

In last week's inter-Korean friendly basketball games, 101 people visited Pyongyang from the South, including players and coaches as well as government officials. Also included was Park Jong-min, a commentator who has 19 years of experience with pro basketball games here.

Park, 40, who started his career in 1999, has been making commentary for SK Knights at the team's stadium since 2001.

He did not expect to go to Pyongyang until a day before the South Korean sports delegation's July 3 departure for the games that were held from July 4 to 5.

He received a call from a Korea Basketball Association official at around 7 p.m. on July 2 and was told to go to Pyongyang the next day. His visit was approved about three hours later.

"I was told that North Korea faxed the South at 6 p.m. on July 2 that a commentator would be needed. Then the association called me," he said.

The next morning he boarded the air force transport aircraft heading for Pyongyang without any preparation.

"I had to understand the North Korean-style basketball terms first," Park said, because the North uses pure Korean words, while the South relies more on English loanwords.

"I was nervous at the beginning. I had difficulty because I was not familiar with the North Korean terms," he said. "I also had to be cautious about calling the North Korean players' names. One of the players' names was Kim Chong-il, and I had to take extra caution in pronouncing the name (not to mistakenly say Kim Jong-il, the former North Korean leader)."

But as the games progressed, Park became more relaxed and regained his usual vibrancy ahead of the 10,000 North Korean spectators at Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium.

As Heo Ung of the South's Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps was marking another South Korean player, Heo Hun of KT Sonicboom, Park said "the two are brothers." As North Korean spectators made a buzz of surprise, he said, "Who do you think is the elder one?" and the spectators burst into laughter.

He prepared about 30 K-pop songs to play at the stadium, but could not do so because the North requested him not to.

"I feel rewarded as the North Korean spectators enjoyed the games. Not everybody can have this kind of opportunity," Park said. "It was an honor."


Basketball commentator Park Jong-min makes commentary during an inter-Korean friendly game at Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium in Pyongyang, July 4. / Pyongyang Joint Press Corps

By Kim Rahn, Pyongyang Joint Press Corps

In last week's inter-Korean friendly basketball games, 101 people visited Pyongyang from the South, including players and coaches as well as government officials. Also included was Park Jong-min, a commentator who has 19 years of experience with pro basketball games here.

Park, 40, who started his career in 1999, has been making commentary for SK Knights at the team's stadium since 2001.

He did not expect to go to Pyongyang until a day before the South Korean sports delegation's July 3 departure for the games that were held from July 4 to 5.

He received a call from a Korea Basketball Association official at around 7 p.m. on July 2 and was told to go to Pyongyang the next day. His visit was approved about three hours later.

"I was told that North Korea faxed the South at 6 p.m. on July 2 that a commentator would be needed. Then the association called me," he said.

The next morning he boarded the air force transport aircraft heading for Pyongyang without any preparation.

"I had to understand the North Korean-style basketball terms first," Park said, because the North uses pure Korean words, while the South relies more on English loanwords.

"I was nervous at the beginning. I had difficulty because I was not familiar with the North Korean terms," he said. "I also had to be cautious about calling the North Korean players' names. One of the players' names was Kim Chong-il, and I had to take extra caution in pronouncing the name (not to mistakenly say Kim Jong-il, the former North Korean leader)."

But as the games progressed, Park became more relaxed and regained his usual vibrancy ahead of the 10,000 North Korean spectators at Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium.

As Heo Ung of the South's Korea Armed Forces Athletic Corps was marking another South Korean player, Heo Hun of KT Sonicboom, Park said "the two are brothers." As North Korean spectators made a buzz of surprise, he said, "Who do you think is the elder one?" and the spectators burst into laughter.

He prepared about 30 K-pop songs to play at the stadium, but could not do so because the North requested him not to.

"I feel rewarded as the North Korean spectators enjoyed the games. Not everybody can have this kind of opportunity," Park said. "It was an honor."


Kim Rahn rahnita@ktimes.com
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