Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Rodman makes second trip to DPRK

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

UPDATE 3 (2013-12-1): Macleans has more information on how Rodman arranged his second trip to the DPRK:

Sometime last spring, Dennis Rodman, the unpredictable, flamboyant NBA hall of famer, found he had a problem: How was he going to get back into North Korea?

As it happened, Rodman had a standing invitation from that hermetic country’s supreme leader, Kim Jong Un—a man Rodman has described as “my friend” ever since his first trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) last March. But, the DPRK is not an easy holiday destination, and Kim hadn’t offered to send a personal jet.

Rodman’s first trip had been worry-free—it was arranged by the in-your-face media company Vice, which used Rodman’s allure as a former Chicago Bull (the ruling Kim dynasty has an enduring fascination with the team) to gain entry to the country and shoot an HBO documentary. But the Vice crew’s anti-Kim agenda had left North Korean officials, and Rodman himself, nonplussed. This time, Rodman wanted to go unencumbered by cameras and press people. So what to do?

“They tried to go to a travel agent, I guess, but obviously it doesn’t work that way,” says Joseph Terwilliger, a geneticist at the Columbia University Medical Center, who got involved in Rodman’s quest after successfully bidding on a basketball game with him at a charity auction. The pair shot hoops, but mainly they talked North Korea.

Terwilliger told Rodman he knew exactly who could help: Michael Spavor, a Canadian he’d first met at the bar of the Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang some years ago, and who has developed a reputation for being one of those rare things—a foreigner whom the North Koreans have come to trust, and who can get things done in that country.

Spavor, 38, is not what you’d expect from an emissary to North Korea. An affable, mild-mannered type who grew up in a Calgary suburb, he first became intrigued by North Korea during a short stay in Seoul in the late 1990s, when, flipping through the Lonely Planet travel guide, he stumbled across the section on the DPRK—“just a little sliver in the back,” he recalls. “It was the most interesting part of the whole book.”

He went on to live in Pyongyang for six months in 2005, working as a teacher at a school affiliated with a Vancouver-based NGO. He’s been in and out of the DPRK ever since, developing key contacts in the regime along the way. Spavor speaks the North Korean dialect—a more formal variant of the southern—so fluently that he fools people on the phone, and he ran a school specializing in DPRK Korean in Yanji, the city in a largely Korean corner of northeast China where he now lives.

Not your typical line of work, and occasionally it raises eyebrows. Passing through the U.S. a few weeks ago, his unusual travel itinerary raised red flags with a customs official. Spavor asked if the officer had heard about Rodman’s trip to North Korea in early September. Sure, he had. “I organized it,” Spavor told him. “It was a blast.”

It was, in some ways, a bro vacation. Rodman’s entourage included; Christopher Volo, a mixed-martial-arts fighter, and Terwilliger, the Columbia prof, who also happens to be a pro tuba player. Terwilliger had become fascinated by the DPRK as a kid listening to shortwave radio from Pyongyang; he’d been on North Korea’s propaganda mailing list for years and found the material he received “interesting.” Together, the men sang, drank, ate and laughed with Marshall Kim, as he likes to be known, at his seaside retreat, a “seven-star” home-away-from-home that Rodman later compared to Ibiza.

“In the media, Marshall Kim Jung Un is portrayed as serious,” Spavor told Maclean’s in an interview. “But we were able to see a more charismatic, friendly side to him. He has a good sense of humour.”

Spavor carries official pictures, taken by a state photographer, of the encounter on his iPhone, and though he’s wary of whom he shows them to—Spavor is fastidiously careful in regards to everything DPRK-related—it’s clear from the shots that this was a casual affair enjoyed by Rodman, his entourage, and by Kim, who is thought to be around 30.

“Dennis and Marshall Kim talked, and Michael and I tried to translate as much as we could,” explains Terwilliger.

Then he corrects himself.

“I mean, Michael translated as much as he could to Korean,” he says. “I was more translating Dennis to English.”

The two Rodman visits to North Korea have received their share of ridicule—North Korea, after all, is a pariah state, with a troubling human rights record and a history of threatening its enemies, including the U.S., with nuclear destruction. But, Spavor, who has led many similar, though lower-profile, cultural-exchange tours there—students and faculty from Cambridge, Harvard and McGill have seen North Korea from the inside, thanks to his ministrations—saw Rodman’s visits as “a chance for international relationship-building, in this case, through the medium of sport.”

Asked if such an endeavour makes him an apologist for what many consider a pretty nasty regime, Spavor won’t be drawn in. “I’m really in no position to comment on political and human rights issues,” he says. “Those issues are better discussed between governments.”

During his time living in Pyongyang, Spavor was able to observe “regular, everyday life”—people going to work, young couples walking hand-in-hand, vibrant markets. “I met a lot of really beautiful people—so sweet,” he says. “It was contrary to what I’d heard, that they were cold. You hear about this mysterious, unfriendly place.”

He credits his good contacts in North Korea with his capacity to interact with the North Koreans on their own terms—a rapport he picked up while eating, drinking and singing with them during his brief time living there. “I really learned how to party with North Koreans—to party and enjoy myself in their environment,” he says. “I have a rare and odd skill that enables me to connect the DPRK to other people.” Spavor celebrated his birthday in North Korea in November, feasting on North Korean birthday cake, which he says was delicious.

It was his relationship with the North Korean regime that helped Spavor spirit Rodman through Beijing, where the basketball legend sought to keep a low profile, and onto a flight with Air Koryo, the North Korean airline. “You know, it’s not easy hiding a six-foot-seven black guy with tongue piercings and tattoos in China,” says Terwilliger.

Indeed, Spavor has carved out a reputation as a street-smart, savvy conduit, someone the North Koreans know is capable of discretion.

“If you sent a traditionally diplomatically minded person, it would be very difficult for such a person to deal with North Korea,” says Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul and a leading authority on North Korea. “Michael has a great deal of common sense, and he’s a very normal guy, but also very smart. He understands the society and he’s not afraid to experiment and do things that are unusual.” Hence, Spavor’s willingness to engage with the North Koreans on the basketball court.

Spavor’s unusual relationship with the North Koreans is driving plans, bankrolled by the colourful Irish bookmaking company Paddy Power, to mount a basketball exchange between the U.S. and the DPRK in January, when between 10 and 12 former NBA players—Spavor won’t name names—are due to arrive in Pyongyang to help coach North Korea’s national basketball team.

And it is Spavor, as a Canadian, whom officials in North Korea’s ministry of sport approached with the idea of setting up a hockey exchange between North Korea and Canada. The project is still in its early stages, but Spavor says there is interest from the NHL. He envisions NHL players and coaches arriving next autumn or winter to help train the country’s national team. As it turns out, the North Koreans do play hockey, in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Division III category, which also includes such lesser hockey nations as South Africa, Ireland and Greece. He’s also looking into organizing another sports exchange between North Korea and Canada—this one centred on skiing (the DPRK is poised to open its first ski resort, at the Masik Pass, on the country’s east coast).

The DPRK is borrowing from American culture in other ways, too. Spavor carries with him the Samjiyon, a North Korean-made tablet computer loaded with North Korean books, and with the republic’s answer to Angry Birds, a computer game called Gomuchong—rubber gun—that looks remarkably similar to the one-time iPhone sensation. Another stab at a cultural exchange? Perhaps. It may also be piracy.

UPDATE 2 (2013-9-8): Just as Kenji Fujimoto taught us the name of Kim Jong-un, Rodman has revealed to the world the name of Kim Jong-un’s daughter. According to The Guardian:

Dennis Rodman has already described Kim as an “awesome guy”. On Sunday, he told the Guardian the leader was also a “good dad” to his baby daughter, whom he named as Ju-ae.

“The Marshal Kim and I had a relaxing time by the sea with his family,” Rodman said of his recent visit to the world’s most isolated country. “We shared many meals and drinks where we discussed our plans to play a historic friendship basketball game between North Korea and the US as well as ways to develop their basketball team.”

“I held their baby Ju-ae and spoke with Ms Ri [Sol-Ju, Kim’s wife] as well. He’s a good dad and has a beautiful family. Kim told me, ‘I’ll see you in December.'”

Rodman plans to organise a basketball game between American and Korean teams.

“Kim is a great guy, he loves basketball, and he’s interested in building trust and understanding through sport and cultural exchanges,” Rodman said. “I know in time Americans will see I’m just trying to help us all get along and see eye to eye through basketball and with my friendship with Kim I know this will happen.” Further details on the basketball match are expected on Monday.

If the Rodman in Pyongyang story wasn’t unusual enough, there is an extra twist – it is being sponsored by an Irish bookmaking firm, which cheerfully admits it has no experience of international diplomacy.

Paddy Power used Rodman for a promotional stunt involving bets about the new pope, after which the eponymous son of the founder of the firm went for “pizza and a few glasses of wine” with the ex-NBA star in Rome. Rodman then explained his “basketball diplomacy” idea.

Despite thinking it was “all a bit bonkers”, Power decided to get involved. He said: “If you’d told me about this 12 months ago I’d have got the men in white coats to take you away. It’s an unusual idea to say the least.”

Power stressed that the project did not mean that the company or Rodman “endorse or support” one of the world’s most repressive regimes, which has an appalling human rights record.

The company consulted a Korea expert at the International Crisis Group thinktank, which argues that this is not entirely a stunt.

“Someone might say that Dennis Rodman provides political legitimacy to the regime, or it can be treated as a propaganda coup,” said ICG’s Daniel Pinkston, who has been an expert on North Korea for 30 years. “I think that’s greatly exaggerated. If you have a former president of the United States, that factor might be much greater. But someone like Dennis Rodman can’t do that. He can’t lift sanctions – he doesn’t have that power or authority.”

“The risks and costs are very, very low, and what you’re creating is a channel for the exchange of ideas. It’s a very small channel, but it’s there.”

He said the interaction between Kim and Rodman sent out a signal to the world – and to North Koreans. “Here’s someone who’s one of the most nonconformist individuals you can think of. And here’s the leader, embracing him. That is an implicit signal – it’s OK to be different.”

The New York Times also reports:

On Monday, Mr. Rodman said Mr. Kim gave him the right to write a book about him.

Mr. Rodman said he would put together a team of 12 former N.B.A. stars to travel to Pyongyang in January for one week. He said he hoped to recruit people like his former Chicago Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone. They will play a North Korean team on Jan. 8 and another game two days later, he said. Mr. Kim promised a stadium and 95,000 fans.

Mr. Rodman said he planned to travel to Pyongyang in December to help select and prepare a North Korean team. A second set of games between the teams will be played in June in Europe, according to an agreement between the North Korean minister of sports and Mr. Rodman that was read during the news conference on Monday.

Mr. Rodman said he accepted Mr. Kim’s request for him to train the North’s Olympic basketball team.

UPDATE 1 (2013-9-7): Reuters reports that Dennis Rodman has left without Kenneth Bae.

Former U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman returned on Saturday from his second visit to North Korea this year where he again met the reclusive country’s leader Kim Jong-un, but did not come back with jailed American missionary Kenneth Bae.

“That’s not my job to ask about Kenneth Bae. Ask Obama about that. Ask Hillary Clinton,” he told a throng of reporters. “I don’t give a shit.”

Rodman showed reporters in Beijing pictures of him meeting Kim, and said he had given Kim a gift of his Bad Boy vodka, which “he loved”.

“He is my friend for life. I don’t care what you guys think about him. I don’t give a shit about what people around the world think about him,” he added.

Rodman’s latest trip was sponsored by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power.

ORIGINAL POST (2013-9-7): Back in February Dennis Rodman made headlines by visiting the DPRK with the Harlem Globetrotters for a trip arranged by the new Vice show on HBO.

On September 3, Rodman returned to the DPRK for his second trip.

Here is coverage in Rodong Sinmun:

Supreme leader Kim Jong Un met ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman and his party on a visit to the DPRK.
He warmly greeted them and had a cordial talk with them.

Warmly welcoming Dennis Rodman visiting the DPRK again as a friend in a good season, Kim Jong Un told him that he might visit the DPRK any time and spend pleasant days, having a rest.

Saying he feels very grateful to Kim Jong Un for sparing a precious time to meet him and his party despite his tight schedule, Dennis Rodman said this is an expression of good faith towards the Americans.

He said that he was fortunate to revisit the DPRK as he has friendly relations with broad-minded Marshal Kim Jong Un.

Dennis Rodman evinced his will to contribute to boosting diverse sports and cultural exchange with the DPRK.

He presented Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju with a gift he prepared with the deepest respect for them.

Kim Jong Un, together with him and his party, watched a basketball match between the April 25 Team and the Amnokgang Team.

Kim Jong Un hosted a dinner for Dennis Rodman and his party.

Expressing his heartfelt thanks to Kim Jong Un for spending a lot of time for him and his party and according them the warmest hospitality, Dennis Rodman said he would remember this visit as an unforgettable beautiful memory all his life.

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KCNA on the DPRK’s economic progress

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Here is a recent article in KCNA on economic advancements. I post as a reference to what the North Koreans are most proud of when it comes to economic management.

DPRK Directs Efforts to Developing Economy

Pyongyang, August 16 (KCNA) — Marshal Kim Jong Un, in the 2013 New Year Address, set the building of a strong economy as a key issue in accomplishing the cause of building a thriving socialist nation.

In response to his New Year Address, the people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have made fresh upsurge in all economic sectors in the spirit of the “Masikryong Speed”.

Readjustment of the West Sea Barrage-Sinchon-Kangryong and Ongjin waterways was finished in ten days, while more than 1,000 hectares of fruit field has come into being in Pukchong County, South Hamgyong Province.

The Pyongyang Essential Foodstuff Factory and the Phyongsong Synthetic Leather Factory have become streamlined and the Vitamin C Factory and the Turf Research Center of the State Academy of Science were newly built on a modern basis.

Lots of industrial establishments across the country finished the first half-yearly assignments ahead of schedule.

The country’s science witnessed big achievements during the first half of the year.

The 10th national sci-tech presentation and show in the field of nano-technology and national sci-tech presentation in the field of mining industry took place, and an IT presentation was held on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Central Agency for Information of Science and Technology.

More than 140,000 hectares of land were afforested, 590 kilometers of roads repaired and 2,100 kilometers of riversides improved.

The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum was newly built in a wonderful way on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Korean people’s victory in the Fatherland Liberation War (June 1950-July 1953).

The Rungna People’s Sports Park and Pyongyang International Football School were also built in Pyongyang.

A wave of innovations have been registered in building the Masik Pass Ski Resort, the reclamation project of the Sepho Tableland, the expansion project of the Kosan Fruit Farm and the construction of the second-stage Huichon Power Station.

The same is true with the construction sites of apartment houses for scientists, children’s hospital, dental hospital, Munsu Wading Pool and Mirim Riding Club.

All these projects are carried on as part of the efforts for implementing the plan of Kim Jong Un on turning the country into an economic giant.

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Koryo Tours reports the [probable] end of Arirang performance [but not really]

Monday, March 11th, 2013

UPDATE 1 (2013-3-11): Koryo Tours reports that the mass games will take place this year…and it will be “Arirang” themed.  The DPRK had earlier reported that Arirang had been consigned to history.  So it appears that management of the mass games is handled in much the same way as the management of economic policy. Here is what the Koryo Tours email had to say:

Today, Koryo Tours received confirmation of the mass games dates for this year. They are scheduled to run from JULY 22nd to SEPTEMBER 9th. These dates incorporate two of the biggest holidays in the DPRK this year – the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War on 27th July (Victory Day) and the 65th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK on September 9th (National Day) .

Despite claims last year that 2012 would be the last ever Arirang-themed performance, it seems that this is not the case and this year the theme will again be Arirang but we expect to see new scenes added in to make it bigger and better than ever before.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-7-11): I have relocated to the DC area and have begun clearing out the backlog of posts and emails. I should be caught up by the end of the week.

This morning, however, I wanted to point out a marketing email sent out by Koryo Tours:

Word from our sources in Pyongyang is that the Arirang Mass Games of 2012 will be the last – so we suggest you sign up now to ensure that you can see this remarkable event while it is still running。

While mass games have been performed since the 1940s in the DPRK the Arirang show is the largest and most impressive they have ever produced. Born in 2002, since 2007 it has been an annual event, but 2012 will be Arirang’s 10th anniversary, and it seems the powers that be have decided to close the curtain. As for the reason, our Korean partners suggest that the narrative needs to change with the times. Combining dance, gymnastics, propaganda, politics, music, and even unicycling, this spectacular performance chronicles the struggles of the Korean people suffering under Japanese occupation, moving into the independent era and building a modern country – basically the period linked to the first 100 years since the birth of North Korea’s Eternal President Kim Il Sung.

However, since 2013 marks the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the republic (Sept 9th) as well as the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War (July 27th), organisers are reportedly planning a whole new performance for next year – for more news on this, please stay on our mailing list!

So if you haven’t seen Arirang yet, or if you want to see it one last time, this is your chance.

Koryo Tours is also repeating its Ultimate Frisbee Tour and Pyongyang’s first ever DJ set! Email them at [email protected] if you are interested.

You can read the full Koryo Tours newsletter here.

 

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DPRK imports Swiss firearms

Friday, October 26th, 2012

According to Yonhap:

North Korea imported US$170,000 worth of firearms from Switzerland in the first half of this year, Seoul’s trade agency said Friday.

The communist country brought in about $100,000 of guns such as shotguns, air and gas rifles, and revolvers while importing around $70,000 worth of firearm components, according to the report by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, or KOTRA.

The state-run agency said the North had no record of firearm imports from Switzerland since 2009 until last year when it started to ship them in the first half.

Some experts said the new trend may be due to the fact that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un spent his adolescence in the country.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea imports US$170,000 of firearms from Switzerland
Yonhap
2012-10-26

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DPRK replaces three ministers

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

According to the Daily NK:

News of a cabinet reshuffle being slowly and indirectly revealed by the North Korean state media is generating interest in analytical circles.

On the 17th, Chosun Central News Agency, in the process of unveiling the newly completed Tongil Street Fitness Center, revealed that the Minister of Sport has been removed, with Ri Jong Moo being cited instead of former incumbent Park Myung Cheol.

This is the third such change revealed in recent days. On October 4th, former Minister of Agriculture Ri Kyung Sik was revealed to have been replaced by Hwang Min, while on the 15th it was Kim Jae Seong’s turn to replace former Minister for the Electronics Industry Han Gwang Bok.

All three of the incumbents had been in-post for a number of years, adding intrigue to the news. 71-year old Park was made Minister of Sport in 1998, while 66-year old Han had been covering the electronics industry brief since 2009. 64-year old Ri, meanwhile, was made Minister of Agriculture in 2003, relieved of his duties in 2009 and then returned to post in 2011.

Read the full story here:
Cabinet Reshuffle as 3 Ministers Replaced
Daily NK
Park Seong Guk
2012-10-18

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Friday fun: Pyongyang’s new skateboard park under construction?

Friday, October 5th, 2012

UPDATE 2: The park is for roller-blading not skateboarding. Kim Jong-un’s visit was reported on KCTV on 2012-11-4. You can see it here.

UPDATE 1 : A reader tells me it could also be for roller-blade use. Admittedly I know less about roller-blading than skateboarding so I cannot judge.  We will just have to wait until tourist pictures or KCNA show us otherwise…

ORIGINAL POST: Radio Free Asia’s Korean Service has a story on the construction of Pyongyang’s first skateboard and/or bike park:

Image by “axelivarsson“. See the original photo in Flickr here. See the extra-large photo here.

According to the photographer, this picture was taken on September 9, 2012.

The new park is in East Pyongyang near the Monument to the Party Founding and across the street from the Youth Hall and Golden Lanes Bowling Alley:

I have spent thousands of hours looking at pictures of the DPRK and watching DPRK television.  I have never seen a picture of a North Korean using a skateboard or doing bike tricks…so this is rather surprising.

Earlier this year, some tourists tried to skateboard in Pyongyang with limited success.

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Unreported Kim Jong-un visit in May

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Construction of the Sporting Center on Tongil Street ( 38.979300°, 125.702961°)

I watched a documentary of Kim Jong-un’s guidance trips in May 2012 and noticed that there was a visit in the video that was never reported in KCNA (neither the .kp nor the .jp versions) . The visit was to the “Sporting Center in Thongil Street”. I have posted the relevant video to YouTube:

According to the chronology of the video, the guidance trip took place sometime between Kim’s attendance of a performance by the Unhasu Orchestra (2012-5-1) and his guidance trip to the Mangyongdae Funfair (2012-5-9). The visit was unlikely to have taken place on 2012-5-2, however, since Kim is reported to have visited the command of the KPA Air Force (which was not reported in the documentary).

I was unable to recognize the people who attended the guidance trip with Kim, so I asked Michael Madden (NK Leadership Watch), who is quite good at this sort of thing, for some assistance. Here is his response:

[Kim Jong-un] was accompanied at that visit by VMar Choe Ryong Hae, Jang Song Taek, VMar Hyon Chol Hae, Gen. Pak Jae Gyong, Col. Gen. Son Chol Ju, Pak To Chun, Hwang Pyong So and VMar Ri Yong Ho. Also in attendance were members of the Guard Command and KJU’s personal secretariat.

Interestingly, KCNA did report that Choe Ryong Hae visited this facility on May 30 and hinted at the earlier Kim Jong-un visit:

Choe Ryong Hae Makes Field Survey of Sporting Center in Thongil Street

Choe Ryong Hae, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army, on Wednesday made field survey of the Sporting Center in Thongil Street.

The construction of the modern center for the promotion of the people’s health started at the initiative of the dear respected Kim Jong Un and under his plan. It is now nearing its completion.

There are in the center with a huge plottage hundreds of sports apparatuses of various kinds, recuperation rooms, table tennis halls, a supersonic wave wading pool, etc.

Choe Ryong Hae went round various places of the center associated with footsteps left by Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un with loving care for the people.

Choe underscored the need for builders to fully display the serve-the-people spirit in building, bearing deep in mind the intention of the supreme commander to make the people fully enjoy wealth and prosperity under socialism.

Each sports apparatus is associated with the warm loving care of the supreme commander, Choe said, calling for managing apparatuses and equipment well to provide convenience to visitors on a priority basis.

Going round the meat and fish shop conducive to improving the diet of people, he underscored the need for the officials and servants of the center to fufil their responsibility and role, deeply cherishing their mission as the servants of the people in hearty response to the party’s slogan “We Serve the People!”

He stressed the need for the soldier-builders to thoroughly implement the order of the supreme commander and successfully complete the center as early as possible.

So I am unsure why KCNA never reported on this particular Kim visit. Theories welcome. It makes me wonder what other visits go unreported!

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Friday Fun: North Korean Hockey Jersey

Friday, June 15th, 2012

A reader named Justin pointed out to me a North Korea national team Tackla hockey jersey for sale on ebay:

The selling price is US$400, and for those of you who are cynical (like me) the seller “canucks109610” has a great reputation on ebay.

I was curious how the seller managed to come across the jersey so I searched around on the internet and found this story:

Out [sic] latest reader submission comes from international jersey collector and expert Anthony Ferra, who we know from being a fellow board member at the IceJerseys.com forums. He’s also personally responsible for several gems in the Third String Goalie collection, as his pursuits of rare and obscure jerseys has led to him having numerous contacts around the globe which sometimes make available to him some really hard to find and wonderful jerseys which don’t fit his personal collection, but are too hard to find to pass up.

His “Holy Grail” (or is it his “White Whale”?) remains the elusive North Korea Nike jersey. While he has obtained a couple of more recent vintage post-2002 North Korean jerseys from Tackla, the older Nike era style remains elusive no doubt due to the scarcity of the jerseys, the language barrier between him and any players who may have one, and the isolationist policies of the North Korean government, which limit it’s few hockey playing citizens from having access to the internet in order to even give Anthony a chance to even contact them.

So if any readers out there have a rare Nike North Korean hockey jersey, or they know how to get one, canucks109610 seems like a motivated buyer!

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Ari Sports Factory

Monday, June 11th, 2012

The Hankyoreh has published an interesting about a inter-Korean economic project in Dandong, China.

According to the article:

Taking its name from the traditional song “Arirang,” Ari Sports was established in Nov. 2011 with a 500 million won investment from the city of Incheon and 23 workers from North Korea. It is managed not by a North or South Korean organization, but by China’s Yunnan Xiguang Trade.

The football sneaker and sports clothing production plant was originally planned for Pyongyang’s Sadong District. Efforts began in 2008, and the building was nearly complete when the May 24 measures were passed in 2010 and it had to be abandoned. The factory in Dandong is a temporary structure erected in its stead.

Inter-Korean Athletic Exchange Association standing committee chair Kim Gyeong-seong said, “It’s frustrating not to be able to use the good land and facilities we had in Pyongyang.”

“I hope we are soon able to produce and sell soccer shoes and clothes in Pyongyang,” Kim added.

Song said, “Things are difficult right now between North and South Korea, but if we all work together we can overcome it.”

He added that the company was a “small but meaningful project taking place at a time when economic cooperation has been shut off.”

The company has received orders for three thousand pairs of soccer shoes as of May. It currently plans to produce and sell two to three thousand pairs a month. To achieve this, it is organizing a football contest for working people nationwide at the first Incheon Peace Cup event to commemorate the June 15 Summit on June 16 and 17.

I have never heard of this project and I have been unable locate any other articles on the factory. Despite its relative obscurity, however, the North Korean workers know how to deal with the foreign press (they stay on message):

On June 9, the company was visited by around fifty participants in the Incheon-Dandong-Hankyoreh West Sea Cooperation Forum, including Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil and Hankyoreh Foundation for Reunification and Culture chairperson and former Unification Minister Im Dong-won. Located in a farming village on the outskirts of Dandong in China’s Liaoning Province, Ari Sports has 1,600 square meters of floor space on a plot of land also measuring 1,600 square meters.

North Korean workers expressed their frustration with the inability of economic cooperation projects to move forward due to the state of inter-Korean relations. Workers Kwon Ok-kyong, Kim Kum-ju, and Kim Myong-hwa said they wished production and sales could proceed smoothly.

When asked about working at the company, Cho Sang-yon said, “Well, it’s not as good as working in my home country.”

Pak Hyok-nam said, “I’d like to see bigger economic cooperation projects between North and South.”

I have been unable to learn anything else at all about this project.  If you are able to find company logos, web page, photos, or even factory locations on Google Earth, please let me know.

Read the full story here:
Factory in China continues producing soccer shoes in spite of frosty relations
Hankyoreh
Kim Kyu-won
2012-6-11

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Visa-free Rason tourism for Chinese citizens

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

According to Choson Exchange:

Chinese tourists will have visa free access to the border regions linking Yanbian Autonomous Region, Rason Special Economic Zone and Russia, according to a report originating with Jilin Radio that surfaced in South Korean media today.

The report doesn’t give an date for implementation, but does state that the previous tourism agreement governing the border region (signed in 2010) will be streamlined. It still takes 10 days for a Chinese traveler to get permission to visit Rason. This process will drop to 2-3 days.

If accurate, this could go a long way towards boosting tourism in the SEZ. After all, a Beijinger or Shanghaiian might well be more willing to spend the money to visit the region if they can get two countries in the same trip. At the risk of overgeneralizing, Asian tourists seem eager maximize passport stamps above all else on international tours. This desire could be effectively exploited if Rason and Russia’s Primorsky Krai province coordinate their marketing.

Also, now that the road to Rason is paved, the ease with which Chinese gamblers can reach the Emperor Casino and Hotel greatly increases and arguably makes the destination seem more normal and therefore attractive. One wonders if the casino’s fleet of crimson humvees, once needed to whisk high-rollers along the laborious dirt road from, will now be replaced by Mercedes or Lexuses. (Lexi?)

Last year, the SEZ experimented with self-drive tours for Chinese citizens, though there has yet to be any follow-up on it.

For westerner tourists thinking of visiting Rason, we recommend Krahun, a company that has had a presence in Rason for over a decade and know the region exceptionally well.

Read the full story here:
Visa Free Rason Tourism for Chinese Citizens
Choson Exchange
Andray Abrahamian
2012-5-29

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