Skyd was incredibly excited to hear about a move to bring Ultimate to one of the most world’s most isolated nations. On Sunday, August 28th, an Ultimate tournament will be put on for the first time in North Korea and organizer Andray Abrahamian is calling for players to participate in a once in a lifetime experience. We exchanged a few emails with Andray to find out more about this amazing event.
Skyd: Who are you and how did you get involved with Ultimate?
Andray: I’m a Phd candidate in International Relations and I focus on issues related to the Korean peninsula. I started playing Ultimate in Seoul in 2003 and fell in love with the tight-knit camaraderie which I think is not uncommon among expat-teams all over the world. I then played in the UK during my MA: I love seeing the UK develop into an ultimate power…we’re still struggling to make it grow in South Korea, though there are a handful of university teams and more expat teams outside of Seoul.
What is Ultimate like in North Korea? Where are games played? What are some of the difficulties you have to overcome?
Geopolitics with North Korea are tough, no doubt. But one great thing is that frisbee -politics are absent. There’s a real uncorrupted purity to it. This stems from the fact that there is no Ultimate players in North Korea.Yet.
We’re really excited about the tournament you’re putting together. Where and when is it being hosted?
It is being hosted in Pyongyang, the last weekend of August. We fly into Pyongyang on the 27th, do some sightseeing and catch the socialist-realist spectacular of the mass games. The tournament will be on Sunday the 28th. Monday we’ll do some more larking around, perhaps go to an amusement park (really) and for sure drink North Korean microbrewed beer (no, really).
What is the goal of the tournament? Which teams do you hope to attract?
It’s a hat tournament. Travel to North Korea isn’t especially cheap, so finding whole teams to come would be tough. The goal is threefold. First, ultimate should be in every country, obviously. Second, North Korea is one of the most different and most interesting places in the world. Perhaps most importantly, the more North Koreans see of outsiders and the more outsiders see of North Koreans, the better. There are huge political and cultural gulfs to cross and its important to try to cross them.
What does running this event mean to the Ultimate players in North Korea?
Hopefully, it will mean that they exist in the future.
What is your tournament called?
The Pyongyang International Peace Tournament
Tell us the relationship with your tournament and Koryo Tours. How are they helping to organize?
Koryo Tours is the leader in DPRK travel. Not only that, but they’ve had such longstanding, positive partnerships with North Koreans, they’ve gotten to produce documentaries, organize other sports events, even write and shoot a North Korean romantic comedy, which they’re editing right now. It’s hard to imagine another company being able to pull off something as goofy as an Ultimate tournament.
How can people find out more about this tournament? Who should they contact?
It looks like all inclusive (aside from booze – cheap – and mass games tickets) will be about 1000 Euros. This includes food, hotels, flights from Beijing, tour guides…the works. They can write us at email@example.com if interested in the Ultimate Frisbee trip of a lifetime. (I know Frisbee is a crappy trademark, but just “Ultimate trip of a lifetime” sounds weird, y’know?)
Where do you see North Korean Ultimate going in the next 5 years? The next 10?
Who can imagine? Possibly winning the Women’s division at Worlds? Their women’s soccer team is really good…
I’d like to mention, anyone can attend this event, including Americans. Travel in the DPRK is safe. Like anywhere, if you respect some of the local cultural norms, things go smoothly.