North Korean Frisbee Diplomacy

Traveling in North Korea as a small private group on a custom tour gave us a lot of opportunities that the larger groups never had. Koryo Tours invited us to join up for an afternoon with a group of western Ultimate Frisbee fanatics who had rented a field in Pyongyang and arranged the first ever North Korea Ultimate Frisbee tournament…..how killer was this we thought, playing a first ever event with North Korean locals! But it turns out that Ultimate Frisbee, no matter where it is played, is kinda lame.

There were no North Korean locals included in the tournament (we should have anticipated), instead a handful of North Korean guides participated.  I went in for a couple rounds of play but the Ultimate Frisbee fanatics matched me up against one of the best opposing players. Exhausted, I decided my priorities lay elsewhere when a BMW with a trunk full of black market beer pulled up field side.  With drink in hand I went out to test the limits to which I could explore.  Unfortunately boundaries had been set with two government agents not so discretely maintaining a vigilant watch on all our activities.  Adjacent to the tournament field was an amusement park fun fair with locals and soldiers enjoying rides.  I was unable to explore there but I did sneak some telephoto shots despite the agent’s disproving scowls.

Ultimate Frisbee North Korea

Ultimate Frisbee North Korea

North Korean guides and foreigners team up for Ultimate Frisbee.

North Korean Guides Relaxing

Our guides relax in a BMW with a trunk full of beer.

Soldier at the Park

The fun fair (off limits) adjacent to the field.

We were playing the tournament on World Youth Day, and although the fun fair was closed to me, the Youth Day celebrations held closer to the field were a bit more accessible.

Ultimate Frisbee North Korea

Bobbing for apples relay race.

North Korean Tug of War

Tug of war.

International Youth Day in North Korea

Dizzy bat relay race.

As the Ultimate Frisbee geeks played on, us slackers enjoyed a BBQ lunch put on by the famous singing waitresses of Pyongyang.  After filling our tummies with terrific grilled seafood and meats, and topping our glasses with the local black market beer, the waitresses made us work off the feast by having us participate with them in singing and dancing the North Korean folk classics.

The Singing Waitresses of Pyongyang, North Korea

Dancing with the Singing Waitresses of Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korean Picnic Girls

BBQ Lunch at North Korean Ultimate Frisbee Tournament

Lunch, songs, and dancing with the famous singing waitresses of Pyongyang.

The absolute highlight of my trip to North Korea occurred after the BBQ lunch.  The day was winding down and the locals were leaving the Youth Day celebrations and festivities. Those of us that had given up on the tournament gathered all the spare Frisbees and started tossing them to the locals. The reactions to the flying disks were varied, young boys were game from the start, young girls would catch a rouge Frisbee, shriek wildly, toss and run, while old men stripped down to their undershirts, cigarettes dangling from their mouths, would strut Frisbee in hand before condescending to make a toss. It turned into a wild scene despite the government agent’s best efforts to keep the crowd moving past this foreign temptation (the tour company had to tell the North Korean Government that Ultimate Frisbee was invented in Canada – supposedly no American sports are permitted in the DPRK) – North Korean Frisbee diplomacy would not be stopped!

Ultimate Frisbee North Korea

Ultimate Frisbee North Korea

Ultimate Frisbee North Korea

Ultimate Frisbee North Korea

Frisbee with North Korean locals.

Several of the boys we were playing with were repeatedly told to get lost by the government agents, but boys being boys, they would simply reappear back in line ready to receive another Frisbee toss.  We tried to give away Frisbees to the most enthusiastic kids but somehow our pile was magically being replenished – I’m guessing we kept the government agents busy tracking down and confiscating all the Frisbees we gave out.  We were determined to give away at least one Frisbee, so making sure we that we were not being watched, we gave a Frisbee and mimed run to our most ardent student.  The message was clear, and checking to see that the coast was clear, the boy took off and made away with a smile and his forbidden American prize.

Related story by the Global Times.

10 responses

  1. Pingback: North Korean Frisbee Diplomacy « An American in North Korea | Tour Korea, ทัวร์เกาหลี, เที่ยวเกาหลี

  2. Pingback: Frisbee Diplomacy in North Korea – Picture Post #1 « An American in North Korea

  3. i was reading this entry when i got a little surprised at the end. i’m curious as to how the “perya pilipinas sa clark” firsbee made it to north korea…did you guys bring those frisbees to north korea?

    January 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm

  4. Yes, the organizers of the tournament and ourselves brought them into North Korea – there were no Frisbees in North Korea that we know of before we brought ours. But we did leave some with some boys despite the best effort of government officials.

    “perya pilipinas sa clark” is this from Clark Field, Philippines? I’m not sure exactly who brought that Frisbee.

    January 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm

  5. Pingback: Frisbee Diplomacy in North Korea – Picture Post #2 « An American in North Korea

  6. Pingback: The North Korean Dining Experience « An American in North Korea

  7. Pingback: Reunion With a Friend « American in North Korea

  8. Pingback: Behind the Scenes « American in North Korea

  9. Major Minus

    hey man love the girl w/ the “perya pilipinas sa clark” ;) it’s in Filipino translated as “Philippine Fair at Clark” Clark Freeport Zone is at the province of Pampanga, right in the middle of the Island of Luzon, Philippines. It’s amazing how you got there and seems very normal to them. Or they are just used to your visits? Anyway love to visit other places like north korea soon!

    December 25, 2012 at 8:24 am

  10. Pingback: Lamb BBQ Dancing and Singing Waitresses « American in North Korea

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