North Korean leader urges 'guerrilla-style' sports tactics

Seoul (AFP) - North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-Un has urged athletes to adopt "guerrila-style" tactics in an effort to boost the nation's underwhelming impact on the global sporting stage.

In a letter to a national meeting of sportspeople and officials, Kim, who is known to be an avid sports fan, lamented the fact that North Korea was "trailing behind the world" in sports science and strategy.

The message -- couched in militaristic rhetoric -- said sport provided a crucial opportunity to promote North Korea overseas.

"At times of peace, only athletes can fly the DPRK national flag in the sky of other countries," Kim said in the letter cited by the official KCNA news agency on Thursday.

Promising state support that would turn North Korea into a sports powerhouse "within a few years," Kim said inspiration should be drawn from the fight against Japanese colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

"Sports officials and coaches must implement the tactics of anti-Japanese guerilla-style attacks in each sport event in order to take the initiative in every game and triumph," he said.

North Korea's official history makes much of Kim's grandfather Kim Il-Sung's role as an anti-Japanese guerrilla leader, before he rose to prominence and eventually became the country's founding father.

While rival South Korea punches above its weight in the international sporting arena, the North's sporting record has largely failed to fulfil its aspirations.

It has participated in nine summer Olympics since Munich in 1972, but taken home only 14 gold medals.

The four golds it won in 2012 in London -- all in weightlifting or judo -- equalled its best-ever tally.

Its football team stunned the world by defeating Italy 1-0 on its way to the quarter-finals of the 1966 World Cup, but has only qualified for one other tournament since then, in 2010.

Since taking power following the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in late 2011, Kim has actively pushed sports progress, and personally oversaw construction of a top-class ski resort.

In October 2013, he introduced a new policy rewarding successful athletes with luxury apartments in recognition of their achievements.

In his letter, Kim said priority should be placed on those sports where North Korean athletes have already known success, including women's football, weightlifting, boxing, judo and archery.