Olympian James Cracknell says North Korea is one of two countries with 'a handle on obesity'

James Cracknell was discussing how governments can help tackle obesityGetty

Double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell has claimed North Korea is one of just two countries in the world with a "handle on obesity", as part of an interview with Sky News.

The former rowing world champion was discussing how behavioural change can help address the obesity crisis this morning (18 April) when he made the bizarre comment.

"If you think of the two countries in the world that have got a handle on obesity, what do you think they are - which two countries? North Korea and Cuba," he said.

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"They're quite controlling on behavioural change, so... It will have to be worked and you have to get people to buy into it and the reality is that..."

Cracknell is the interrupted by the Sky News anchor, who points out that the lack of obesity in North Korea is due to the country's despotic regime.

"Yes but people are starving in North Korea aren't they, they're not obese because they don't have any food," he argues.

At this point, Cracknell stumbles to explain himself. "Well... Exactly... But there are sanctions and everything else... But what the example is, is behavioural change," he says.

The Olympian later clarified his comments on Twitter, in response to a user who pointed out that the lack of obesity in North Korea is the "tragic by-product of a vicious, brutal regime where millions have died of starvation".

Cracknell replied: "Totally agree, illustrating influence state has over behavioural change. Poverty & obesity intrinsically related UK needs policy to redress."

Under the current rule of Kim Jong-un, North Korea is one of the world's most repressive countries. In 2014, the UN Commission of Inquiry described how the Kim family's political dynasty maintains a climate of fear through starvation, enforced disappearances, torture and abuse.

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Between 1994 and 1998, up to three million people died as a result of a broken economic system, agricultural decline and the loss of Soviet support, during the North Korean famine.

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