|A participant in the Pyongyang Marathon reaches the finish line at Kim Il-sung Stadium, Pyongyang, in this April 7, 2019 photo. Captured from Koryo Tours website|
By Lee Hae-rin
With North Korea showing signs of lifting its ongoing restrictions against COVID-19, a tour agency has begun promoting the reclusive state's annual international marathon event, the Pyongyang Marathon, which is scheduled to take place next year.
According to Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based operator specializing in North Korea tours, the event, officially known as the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon, will be held April 10, 2022. The tour agency is an official event partner of the marathon.
The North has held the Pyongyang Marathon since 1981 to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung, in April. It has allowed the participation of foreign nationals since 2014, but participation by South Koreans has been prohibited.
In 2020, North Korea officially canceled the annual marathon to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This year, the event was to be held virtually from April 5 to 11, but was eventually canceled as well.
"The marathon is comprised of four events ― five kilometers, 10 kilometers, 21 kilometers and 42 kilometers ― and it starts and finishes at Kim Il-sung Stadium," the website says. "This means that all participants will get the chance to finish in front of a 50,000-strong capacity crowd of local Koreans who will be in attendance at the stadium."
The course includes several iconic North Korean buildings, monuments and streets of urban Pyongyang and the countryside, and a local football match is to be held after the start of the race, according to the website.
The agency noted that all travel to North Korea is suspended at the moment, amid the country's prolonged border closure due to COVID-19, and that details of the event will be confirmed once the borders are opened again.