September 27, 2021

Give pucks a chance: ice hockey diplomacy in North Korea

Hockey tournament went ahead, despite a nuclear test and arrest of U.S. citizen

Michael Spavor likes a challenge. Since his first visit in 2001, his company, Paektu Cultural Exchange, has spent much of its time organising and supervising countless cultural exchange programs into the North Korea. He’s even met Kim Jong Un - one of the only Westerners to have done so - and his connections reach into the higher echelons of North Korean power politics. In short, if you want to get something done in the DPRK, call him up and he’ll see what he can do.

But as far as these kinds of projects go, putting together a hockey tournament during an international incident on the Korean peninsula is up there with the most tricky.