Marathon: Hundreds of foreigners join Pyongyang race as tensions ease

The Mainichi Japan, April 9, 2018

of foreigners joined in the annual Pyongyang marathon on Sunday despite
political tensions that have only recently begun to ease and a ban on U.S
citizens traveling to the country that is still in effect.
compete in the Pyongyang International Marathon with a backdrop of the Arch of
Triumph in Pyongyang, North Korea, on April 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)
North Korea – Approximately 400 foreign amateurs took part this year, less than
half the number that came last year. They came from approximately 43 countries
and territories around the world.
people were allowed to join in for the first time. One wheelchair runner from
Singapore and one blind North Korean runner were in Sunday’s race.
year’s marathon started in Kim Il Sung Stadium and wound past Pyongyang
landmarks such as Kim Il Sung Square and Mirae Street, one of the North Korean
capital’s recent redevelopment projects.
foreign professional runners from African countries participated in the elite
category of the race.
The men’s
full marathon was won by North Korean Ri Kang Bom in 2 hours 12 minutes and 53
winner of the women’s full marathon was North Korean Kim Hye Gyong, who came in
at 2 hours 27 minutes and 24 seconds, with her twin sister Kim Hye Song
narrowly behind her.
glad that I was able to fulfill the expectations of the people,” men’s
winner Ri said.
North Korea started allowing foreign amateurs to take part in the Pyongyang
marathon in 2014, the event has become a boost for the tourism industry.
But in
the past year, tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the North’s missile
launches and nuclear tests last year, and a U.S. travel ban on its citizens
visiting North Korea, have reduced the number of tourist arrivals.
peaked late last year, but have eased since January, when leader Kim Jong Un
announced a series of diplomatic overtures toward South Korea.
the last two months we saw an increase in people, amateurs, wanting to join the
marathon, simply because the geopolitics before were so, you know, tense, that
people weren’t joining,” said Nick Bonner, head of Koryo Tours, which
brought in many of the foreign tourist runners.
competition is officially called the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon.
Mangyongdae is where North Korea says its late founder, President Kim Il Sung,
was born. It’s part of a series of events held to commemorate the anniversary
of his April 15 birthday.
April 15
is called the Day of the Sun and is North Korea’s biggest holiday.
International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) recognized this year’s
Pyongyang marathon as a Bronze Label Road Race. It’s also accredited by the
Association of International Marathons and Distance Races.