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N.K. military official returns as sports minister ahead of Olympics

All News 10:16 January 29, 2016

SEOUL, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean lieutenant general has come back as the country's sports minister after nearly two years, just ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics to be held in Brazil later this year, the North's media said Friday.

The North's state-run radio station called Ri Jong-mu the country's minister of physical culture and sports when it reported news related to a foodstuff factory for athletes.

Ri, who was named sports minister in October 2012, was replaced by Kim Yong-hun in May 2014 ahead of the 2014 Asian Games competition held in South Korea in October of that year.

Experts said that North Korea is seeking to beef up its preparation for the upcoming Olympic Games to be held in August by re-appointing the seasoned official as sports minister.

"North Korea seems to call Ri back ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in a bid to strengthen sports diplomacy," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

The 67-year-old Ri had handled North Korea's sports policy under leader Kim Jong-un who is known for his affection for sports.

Even when Ri was not in the post of sports minister, he attended major sports events in North Korea, wielding his influence in the arena.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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