US amateur basketballers to travel to N. Korea: RFA
By Kim Jung-yoon
A group of American basketball players who play professionally in Asia are seeking to visit North Korea in June, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA) Saturday.
The visit, first of its kind, was organized by Luke Elie, who played for Korea Professional Basketball Team as he saw the need for sports and cultural exchange. Rumors also circulate that Kim Jong-un is a huge fan of basketball.
Greg Hayes, who has been a coach for a missionary basketball team in over 30 countries, will coach the squad against North Korea’s professional players as well as college students.
However, according to RFA it is uncertain whether the plan will proceed, since the latest rocket launch aggravated the U.S.-North relations.
The five-day trip to the North slated for June 18 was promoted smoothly with an invitation from the North, until it launched a satellite atop a long range rocket deemed as a provocation.
“I am afraid that it is not the right time for such an event, even though I recognize the importance of sports and cultural exchange,” Peter Beck, Korea representative of the Asia Foundation in Seoul was quoted as saying.
“As tensions escalate around the Korean Peninsula it might create an inappropriate implication to the North and international community.”
While admitting the sensitivity of the event, Elie and Hayes said the sports exchange should be separated from the political situation.
Elie said the circumstance made it difficult to raise fund for the visit and he is preparing promotional events for the plan.