Continuing the sports theme, I’d like to talk about Ultimate Frisbee. Or, more specifically, Ultimate Frisbee in North Korea. I know, it’s hard to imagine North Koreans running around throwing Frisbees and engaging in just a friendly competitive game. But it’s true!
North Korea is hosting the International Frisbee Tournament, to be held on August 11, 2012. More than 50 Western tourists will participate in this “Peace Tournament” with no political agendas whatsoever, but to simply have fun and make a good impression on the North Koreans as a Westerner.
Eric Fish, who participated in these games last year, remembers the North Koreans as being extremely enthusiastic about the game. “I was amazed. They had never played Frisbee before,” he said. “They picked it up pretty quick.” One woman even kicked off her heels to join in the game! Players, Korean and Westerners alike, made dramatic dives to lunge for the Frisbee and high fives were given everywhere, just as you would expect at any game event.
Such an exchange would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago. Tourism to North Korea has only been available for not very long so it is amazing that Westerners are being allowed to go to North Korea to simply enjoy the sports they love with new people. But of course, we know from my previous article about Luke Elie and his adventure to North Korea to play basketball there that Frisbee is not the first sports tourism to happen in this most secluded country. And honestly, I’m glad to hear that interactions such as these are happening more frequently. What we hear in the news about North Korea is, too many times, all political. So whenever we are introduced to events such as Luke’s basketball trip or this Frisbee tournament, it’s a refreshing surprise.
“Once you are playing, you forget who is from where,” Eric said. Any sense of national allegiance or rivalry was lost during a brief moment of celebration with a North Korean teammate; an instance that still seems surreal to him.
“She ran over, gave me a big, old hug,” he said. “Getting a hug from a North Korean woman who just scored a point in Ultimate Frisbee. Everything about that situation makes no sense at all.”
I hope that we can continue to hear new such as these coming from North Korea. If we are able to step aside from the politics and continue to show the North Korean people that we are not any kind of enemy, maybe we can take one step closer to a smoother unification.