Pyongyang Marathon struggles to bring in foreign competitors

by KnowingKorea

It may come as a shock to some that the notoriously closed-off nation of North Korea hosts an annual marathon open to competitors from around the world. Beginning and finishing in the Kim Il-sung stadium and winding its way past a series of major Pyongyang landmarks, the marathon has been held every April since 1981 as part of celebrations commemorating the birth of Kim Il-sung.

In normal years, the marathon season is the peak time for Western tourists coming to North Korea, but with recent heightened nuclear tensions and a US travel ban following the death of Otto Warmbier, a mere 429 foreigners competed this year, less than half as many as in 2017. This comes despite a marked warming of relations between the North and South following the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.