Rio Olympics: How a K-Pop Star Almost Became the Flag Bearer for South Sudan

Kim Jang-hoon - Getty - H 2016
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South Korean singer Kim Jang-hoon wasn't able to take part in the parade, but is much loved in the African country for helping it attain IOC membership.

South Sudan is taking part in the Olympics for the first time and, of all people, K-pop star Kim Jang-hoon almost became the flag bearer for the young African country during the parade of nations in Brazil on Friday.

South Sudan became an independent nation in 2011 following a long period of civil warfare. Though it again suffered internal strife in 2013, it was finally able to become the 206th member of the International Olympic Committee in August 2015.

But why entertain the idea of having a South Korean singer as its flag bearer?

South Sudan has built a friendly rapport with South Korea via Korean soccer legend Lim Heung-sae, who serves as vice president of the African country's Olympic committee. Lim is credited with launching regional associations for nine sports including soccer, basketball, taekwondo and track in South Sudan and helping it attain the prerequisites for IOC membership (international federation memberships for at least five sports).

Kim, one of Korea's most popular rockers, met Lim two years ago during a charity program in Africa and has since helped the footballer with South Sudan's Olympic dreams. The South Sudanese government asked Kim to be the flag bearer at the Rio Games' opening ceremony. The 48-year-old, however, was unable to wave the flag because the committee had to cut down the size of the staff participating in the parade, as too many had signed up in ratio to the number of athletes of only three.

Nevertheless, Kim remains much loved in the African country, where he held a peace-themed concert in April. Since debuting in the early 1990s, the pop artist has been widely reputed, along with Psy, for curating unique live concerts featuring theatrical stunts and costumes.