Sat. Apr 13th, 2024
North Korea golf pyongyang

In this photo taken on October 20, 2022, a contestant putts the ball during an autumn golf contest at the Pyongyang Golf Course in Nampho City. (Photo by KIM Won Jin / AFP)

North Korea has invited foreign golfers to a tournament in Pyongyang, another possible sign of the reclusive country’s reopening after Chinese and Russian officials attended a military parade last month.

The country has been under a rigid self-imposed COVID-19 blockade since early 2020, but there are increasing signs Pyongyang may be becoming more flexible on border controls, experts say.

“The Pyongyang Golf Course hosts an amateur golfers competition in spring and autumn every year,” read a post from August 2 on Pyongyang’s official DPR Korea Tour website.

“Foreign amateurs can also take part in this competition held in spring and autumn in our country and develop friendship with Korean amateur golfers.”

The post also included an email address and phone number of its “golf travel company” — under Pyongyang’s official tourism administration — but did not say when the tournament would take place.

In a separate post, Pyongyang said its agency — the Ryomyong Golf Travel Company — had developed attractions including an underwater golf course, archery ground and boating ground.

north korea asian games 2023 hangzhou

Bronze medallists from North Korea celebrate during the medal ceremony for the women artistic swimming competition during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta on August 29, 2018. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP)

The posts were shared after Beijing confirmed in July that North Korea had registered for this year’s Asian Games, to be held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou in September.

North Korea registered for an overseas sporting event earlier this year, but later failed to send athletes.

But Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute told AFP that recent signs indicate “that Chinese tourism to North Korea will gradually resume in the future”.

Pyongyang’s golf course was reportedly built in the early 1980s, and was officially opened in 1987 to celebrate the 75th birthday of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

“North Korea has designated golf as an important means of earning foreign currency,” An Chan-il, a defector turned researcher who runs the World Institute for North Korea Studies, told AFP.

The regime has even “established a department of golf” at a key sports university in Pyongyang, he added.

In 2005, during a period of better ties, the Pyongyang Golf Course hosted a KLPGA — Korean Ladies’ Professional Golf Association — event.

The winner, South Korea’s Song Bo-bae, told media at the time: “The greens were much slower than the ones in South Korea, which made it quite challenging.”

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