Golf in the DPRK

Daily NK
Yang Jung A

While golf equipment was amongst the list of banned luxury goods the U.S. government announced recently, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on the 6th that golf is a symbol of luxurious pleasure that only the elite in North Korea can experience.

Citing from a Pyongyang report by an Agence France-Presse correspondent, RFA revealed “The main golf course in North Korea is “Pyongyang Golf Course” with about 100 members, which in reality are all officials of Chosun Workers’ Party” and “Annual membership paid by the member amounts to $10,000.”

The correspondent said “This is a figure the average North Korean citizen could not even dream as an expense” and “The golf course in North Korea is a symbol of luxurious pleasure only experienced by authority officials or the elite.”

In the vicinity of Lake Taesung in Yongkang-gun, Nampo 38km from Pyongyang is “Pyongyang Golf Course,” equipped with a complete 18 hole course and ample enough to host an international golf tournament. The course was established in ’87 in celebration of Kim Il Song’s 75th birthday, sponsored by the Jochongnyeon, the pro-North Korean residents’ league in Japan.

Although it is said that a golf course exists within the grounds of Kim Il Sung’s Mountain Myohang villa and Ryongsung resort, the only golf course open to the public is ‘Pyongyang Golf Course.’ Mountain Myohang golf course is located in a valley 1.5km from Hyangsan Hotel, whereas Ryongsung golf course is situated 20 min by car from Pyongyang.

There are also mini courses, such as Yangkakdo golf course and Pyongyang golf practice range, Nampo Wawoodo golf course (9 holes). With investments by South Korean business, more golf courses are being constructed in areas such as Mt. Geumgang.

However, these golf courses are mainly accommodated to foreigners and excluding the elitist class, common people in possession of foreign currency such as Korean born Japanese or foreigners with blood-relatives are also using the courses.

Golf is one of Kim Jong Il’s favorite pastimes. In a book written by Fujimoto Kenji, once Kim Jong Il’s personal cook, Fujimoto wrote of his times at a golf course with Kim Jong Il at his villa.

At the golf course Fujimoto visited with Kim Jong Il, Kim asked Fujimoto ‘Compared to all the other places in the world, what do you think about the golf courses in North Korea?’ That day, when Kim Jong Il visited the golf course was October 6th and categorized a public holiday as a ‘The day Kim Jong Il visited.’

One time, North Korean mass media announced that at Kim Jong Il’s first time round of golf in `94, he scored an “eagle” followed by five “hold in ones,” recording a total score of 34. This only incited laughter from the international community.

If he had made 34 hit shots in a round of 18 holes, based on a game of par 72, this would mean he is 38 under. Even if a golf angel happened to come from the heavens, this would be impossible. While deifying Kim Jong Il and having no knowledge of golfing rules, media officials only made the situation into a laughing comedy.

In response, the New York Times sarcastically commented, that if the reports by North Korean media was true, Kim Jong Il should be selected as the “World’s number one golfer” as even professional golf competitors find it difficult to claim a hole a one in a lifetime.


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