We believe in the power of sport to build bridges between even the most distanced cultures, and that through such engagement anything is possible. Further, we believe that sport isn’t inherently political in nature, and that geopolitics should never prevent communities from interacting with each other. It was these two beliefs that led us to start the Pyongyang Ice Hockey League which is aimed at creating cross cultural engagement between ordinary people in the DPRK and the international community.

And we’ve proven our assumptions to be accurate. Last year, myself and my colleague Gordon Israel travelled to Pyongyang, DPR (North) Korea with a group of international hockey players. It marked the end of lengthy discussions and preparations, during which we negotiated the inclusion of a sports program for individuals with an intellectual disability (ID). We had been told by all external advisors that this would never happen as the DPRK would never let foreigners work with the population in question. In the end, our offer to play hockey was the spark that facilitated our groundbreaking and ongoing efforts to bring disability (ID) sports to the DPRK.

Last March, we went back for a second Pyongyang Ice Hockey League (PIHL) thanks to the continuous efforts and support of our partner, Lupine Travel. Our PIHL 2017 went incredibly well, with both our participants and our North Korean counterparts being very pleased with the outcomes of the trip and we are already discussing organizing the next edition, PIHL 2018, to be held from 3rd to 12th March 2018.

The success of the Pyongyang International Hockey League has led us to start the Howe International Friendship league – a series of events around the world with similar objectives to the PIHL.

And that's not all! Do you know that we also received approval to play against the DPRK soccer national team? Wait, what? Yes, you read well! After organizing several events where our international players played against the North Korean ice hockey national team, we now have the perfect opportunity to bring international players to train and play against the north Korean soccer national team in the world famous 1st of May Stadium. Yet another opportunity to discover the most secretive country on earth from a unique perspective!

You can check out this amazing video (200,000+ views) from one of our participants about his experience with us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24SFNa8TyDM video by /u/afrecon

The Friendship League team will answer all your questions from now and then the Lupine Travel team will take over to make sure we last as long as possible!

More information at: www.friendshipleague.org Lupine travel: www.lupinetravel.co.uk Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hifriendshipleague Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRfdZx2xXoZhw7POfwEDAMQ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hifriendshipleague

My Proof: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxDQRbPZO93IUFgya2hKLUhVYk0/view?usp=sharing

Comments: 398 • Responses: 91  • Date: 

euphemistic308 karma

So I read your website and the only thing I ould find about what you actually do to support people with disabilities is this:

We donate a portion of all regular tour package fees to assist local sports programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

There were also a dozen pictures of some white people playing in a room with Asian kids.

I have a few questions.

  1. How much have you actually donated to local sports programs for the intellectually disabled in the DPRK?

  2. What percent of the gross fees you charge participants goes towards these programs?

  3. How do you ensure this money actually assists these children and their families?

GordonHI88 karma

Hey thank you for asking about our sports programs. In fact you can find more information in this brochure: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxDQRbPZO93IRGNhNkh2R29JaUk/view

What you describe as "some white people playing in a room with Asian kids" is in fact one of the workshops organized with children with intellectual disabilities at the occasion of our events by a professional from Special Olympics.

  1. We have some far raised more than USD5000 that we allocate to our sports programs to run workshops in-country, provide them with appropriate equipments to improve their own programs and facilitate dialogue between leading organizations working with people with intellectual disabilities and local governmental organisations in order to implement long term and large scale projects to better integrate fragile populations into the society. We don't donate those funds to local organization as unfortunately we are still negotiating to find a unique point of contact to collaborate on our programs as well as to ensure the funds are properly allocated. It is important to keep in mind we have started this program last year and negotiations with local officials to progress on the development of our programs are lengthy and difficult given that we basically start from scratch.
  2. The donation represents roughly 10% of the participation fee. The rest are used to cover the costs associated with organizing the events.
  3. We run the sport programs internally in order to have full control of how we allocate the funds.

Another example of how we contribute to local development is our current project of raising enough money to bring a full team of youth players to Vancouver, Canada to play in a local elite competition therefore fostering the development of their skills and to a broader extent, to the entire hockey community in North Korea.

Don't hesitate to let me know if you have more questions.

euphemistic27 karma

Thankyou for supplying some detail. You might want to consider placing this information a little more conspicuously on your site.

I have a follow up question. You say you have a professional from the Special Olympics organizing the workshops. Can you elaborate on what the aim of these programs is (and maybe even what sort of professional developed them)? Are they organised in collaboration with any official Canadian disability and/or education organisations or are the organisations you work with DPRK only?

I just get real antsy when people start making claims about benefitting the disabled community AND doing it via voluntourism.

GordonHI9 karma

My pleasure. Thank you for your recommendation, we will surely do.

Our first objective is to develop a sport program that will benefit individuals with Intellectual Disabilities in the DPRK. We hope to work closely with DPRK officials to develop a program that eventually will offer a broad range of sports to individuals with intellectual disabilities across the country.

We are working with Special Olympics British Colombia on potential collaboration to jointly implement this program and are currently negotiating with the DPRK government the next steps to be taken.

I understand your concerns and that's why we try to be as transparent as possible while not undermining the implementation of our initiative.

And thank you for your patience while we answer as many comments as possible.

anotherjunkie10 karma

I also really appreciate you answering these questions. I'm also disabled, and was a bit nervous reading this in the beginning. Some groups claim to do things to "support" the community without any concrete help being provided.

Now, I swear to god this is a serious question: do you have any estimate of the number of disabled people in DPRK? Any sort of breakdown by disability? Breakdown by age?

In most developed countries we have access to thinks like number of people with learning disabilities, or mobility disabilities, etc. and I'm curious to know if their percentages stack up against other countries.

The reason I ask is because I recall reading somewhere that many of the disabled were basically just left outside to die during their huge famine in the late '90's. It was a time when people were abandoning their own children in hopes someone else would feed them, so this isn't a stretch.

However, the other side of that question is the prison/labor camps, because it wouldn't surprise me at all if they were being used to soak up what KJU believes to be "unproductive" citizens.

Thanks!

GordonHI3 karma

The DPRK government has just signed on and ratified the UN disability convention so everything is still in the early phases as far as support programs go. There is a clear effort to improve the lives of those with disabilities, but due to how recent the efforts are, its difficult to provide accurate statistics. Generally speaking, between 1-3% of any population will have an intellectual disability which is the most accurate assessment we have come across.

Hopefully in the near future as we are able to grow our programs we will be able to provide a bit more accurate picture. There are multiple international organizations who have entered the DPRK to provide disability support over the last couple years so I would assume the world will understand more in the near future.

10strip20 karma

Cheers for answering a classic case of AMA Gotcha! NK is an extremely interesting case to me for some reason so thank you for what you all do!

GordonHI3 karma

Glad you like it and thanks for your support! Don't hesitate to ask us any questions you might have about what we do here ;)

Kuirrel23 karma

the only one they didnt answer... cant say im surprised ._. EDIT: calm down yall, in my sleep deprived state I did not realize the difference in times between the post and the comment. Since that time they have replied in detail. It was a simple mistake. pls indulge in the chillest pills

GordonHI18 karma

We try our best to answer all question as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding

Kuirrel5 karma

thats my bad I wasnt looking at the timestamps >.< my apologies to you

GordonHI2 karma

Sure no worries. We took a break at one moment just when several comments came up

HuggyBear_3 karma

I think a lot of us are wondering this after looking at the website lol

GordonHI2 karma

Hi HuggyBear,

I hope my comment above answers your questions. Otherwise don't hesitate to ask me more ;)

mothsauce-2 karma

[deleted]

GordonHI19 karma

We try our best to answer all question as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding

fancyhatman18135 karma

Hey. How do you feel about being a PR stunt for an oppressive regime? Do you enjoy putting a friendly face on a brutal dictatorship?

GordonHI71 karma

I would disagree that we are a PR stunt and that by hosting a sporting event we are in anyway supporting a given political party or agenda. It is also important to note that the global community largely agrees with our vision. The UN recently recently released a report that stated, inter alia:

"The commission of inquiry recommends that States and civil society organizations foster opportunities for people-to-people dialogue and contact in such areas as culture, science, sports, good governance and economic development that provide citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with opportunities to exchange information and be exposed to experiences outside their home country. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other States should remove applicable obstacles to people-to-people contact, including measures that criminalize travel and contact to the extent that these are not in accordance with relevant obligations under international human rights law."

It is commonly accepted in the international community that sports should not be viewed as political, and that exchanges between all peoples should continue regardless of political tensions

FinickyPenance10 karma

North Korean citizens aren't exchanging information or being exposed to experiences outside their own country by this game. You're playing a game in Pyongyang. If the game was hosted in Seoul maybe things would be different.

GordonHI16 karma

Well in fact another example of how we contribute to local development is our current project of raising enough money to bring a full team of youth players to Vancouver, Canada to play in a local elite competition therefore fostering the development of their skills and to a broader extent, to the entire hockey community in North Korea.

spockspeare8 karma

inter alia

Goalie names, amiright?

GordonHI15 karma

You are right indeed?

Koalapottamus95 karma

Is there any danger to being detained due to recent actions against North Korea?

GordonHI99 karma

When all of our participants arrive in Beijing we sit down for a discussion about local guidelines and customs. If you can follow those guidelines then there is no danger of you being detained. While it might be true that the punishments are more severe then in our home countries, however the DPRK does not make a habit of arbitrarily detaining tourists. For a country attempting to grow a tourism industry it is not in their interest to detain foreigners for no reason.

We work closely with UK -based Lupine Travel who regularly take tourists to countries ranging from Somalia to Iraq and Chernobyl (Ukraine). If you ask, they will tell you that North Korea is actually one of the safest tours they offer. Over the years they have taken hundreds of tourists into North Korea and not a single one has had any issues with the authorities.

I have personally travelled to more than 50 countries including some that I felt where quite dangerous. I have now taken my dad to the DPRK twice and my younger brother once, I would not have done so if I felt that they would be in any danger.

Xert211 karma

NK: it's safer than Somalia!

GordonHI57 karma

Your sarcasm is appreciated but I more used those examples as a way to highlight that they are very experienced in taking people to unusual destinations. If you can follow guidelines North Korea is actually very safe to travel to. From my experience in the tourism industry there are three things that get tourists into trouble abroad: 1. Drug use 2. Road accidents 3. Violent crime. None of which are a problem for tourists in North Korea.

Xert58 karma

Naw, I appreciate your point. It's just a terrible pitch regardless.

GordonHI40 karma

Fair enough, the definition of adventure is different for everybody

Koalapottamus6 karma

That is good to hear. I would hate it if something terrible happened to any of the players since this seems like a great thing for them

GordonHI4 karma

Yes, we take the safety and security of our players very seriously. We will not run an event if we feel that our players are in any danger. This is about having fun and making friends, no need to take unnecessary risks.

CreativeFartist25 karma

When it comes to competitions like this, is the game being played fairly on both sides? Or do you give them the upper hand?

GordonHI42 karma

Honestly we get asked quite a bit if we lose on purpose and nothing could be further from the truth. The first year we had a loss, a tie and an overtime loss. When we showed up the second year we were pretty determined to get a win just so that we had some proof that we weren't loosing.

Well the DPRK team got a lot better and we got killed 16-1 in our first game despite us having three former semi-pro players on our squad and several former Canadian jr. players. Both teams gave it 110% although the DPRK team did let up sometimes and opted for the pass once they got into the double-digits.

quangtit0110 karma

Where would you rank NK's hockey team in international stage?

GordonHI10 karma

Yeah Finch58 is right, however we've noticed a real improvement in their skills and strategy compared to last year when we came back last March. Both our teams had a pretty similar level and, while back in 2016 they could keep up and score some goals, this year this happened very differently. Our team lost the first game 16-2! We like to believe the practice and games organized in 2016 benefited them a lot and led to such progresses.

LAKingsDave22 karma

Why not do a hockey AMA on r/hockey?

GordonHI36 karma

We would be very interested in that but are admittedly kinda rookies when it comes to Reddit. We we're unaware that you could do AMA's under hockey subreddits.

LAKingsDave40 karma

Shoot me a PM. I'm a mod over there. We can set something up for this week or next.

GordonHI22 karma

Will do! Thanks!

RoosterSamurai21 karma

Do you feel that if your team constantly crushed their hockey team, that you would be in danger?

GordonHI33 karma

No, they actually request every year that we bring a better team so that they can get better training opportunities. They are serious athletes.

Finch585 karma

Do you ever think there would be an opportunity for refs to come along. I'm visiting in a couple of weeks and was asking the guys at Lupine Travel about it and they use only the local guys.

GordonHI10 karma

Well that's something we did not discuss so far but we are bringing coaches to run training sessions when we are in-country so we could make a request and see how they feel about this. Are you a referee yourself?

Finch583 karma

Fair enough and yeah.

GordonHI2 karma

I'm sure if you are interested that we could arrange for something, I know the IIHF has sent some trainers to Pyongyang in the past to do capacity building workshops

xGideonx20 karma

[deleted]

GordonHI10 karma

We try to accommodate all questions. We received this one and did not want to be rude not answering. If you read through the feed I'm sure you will realize that we do our best to answer all questions thoroughly. By the way, don't hesitate to ask us one question yourself ;)

MyNameIsntRusty16 karma

What are your favorite types of toppings on pizza?

GordonHI32 karma

Pepperoni, hands down. Get those pineapples off my pizza.

Afrecon17 karma

Follow up question - Have you or have you not ever ordered a pizza in North Korea?

GordonHI29 karma

Haha actually yes I have, on my last trip there it had been about 8 days in the country and I was craving some dough. I asked my guides if they could find me some pizza and sure enough, they took us to a small coffee shop in the heart of Pyongyang that served up some delicious slices. Pepperoni too!

iwas99x5 karma

I hope that question catches on and replaces the Horse/duck size question.

GordonHI10 karma

Lol, same here. That questions got old fast.

meme-memerson16 karma

What does the DPRK do about disabilities to provide for the people?

GordonHI5 karma

Hey thank you for asking about our sports programs!

So far we have had the unique opportunity to bring a professional from Special Olympics to organize workshops for children with intellectual disabilities at the occasion of our events and we could initiate discussions with local officials to discuss the next steps to be taken to further develop our programs.

More generally, we raise funds that we allocate to our sports programs to run workshops in-country, provide them with appropriate equipments to improve their own programs and facilitate dialogue between leading organizations working with people with intellectual disabilities and local governmental organisations in order to implement long-term and large-scale projects to better integrate fragile populations into the society. We are still unable donate those funds to local organization as unfortunately we are still negotiating to find a unique point of contact to collaborate on our programs as well as to ensure the funds are properly allocated. It is important to keep in mind we have started these programs last year and negotiations with local officials to progress on the development of our initiative are lengthy and difficult given that we basically start from scratch.

The donation represents roughly 10% of the participation fee. The rest are used to cover the costs associated with organizing the events. Also we run the sport programs internally in order to have full control of how we allocate the funds.

Another example of how we contribute to local development is our current project of raising enough money to bring a full team of youth players to Vancouver, Canada to play in a local elite competition therefore fostering the development of their skills and to a broader extent, to the entire hockey community in North Korea.

Don't hesitate to let me know if you have more questions.

You can find more information in this brochure: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxDQRbPZO93IRGNhNkh2R29JaUk/view

Jynx36 karma

Didn't North Korea say they no people with disabilities?

GordonHI6 karma

Things are changing slowly in North Korea on that matter. Last year we were extremely pleased to have the opportunity to meet children with intellectual disabilities and to bring a representative of Special Olympics to run workshops with them. So far, all our partners had no doubt we would go home empty handed and in fact we could publicly advertise this event. We are now trying to go one step further, setting up a long-term large-scale local development project aimed at better integrating people with intellectual disabilities into the society.

designer_farts6 karma

Dp you get a gide that follows you everywhere?

GordonHI14 karma

Sometimes yes and sometimes no. When we travel for our work on the disability projects we are on official visas so we have a bit more freedom to stray from our guides. When we travel for hockey we are on tourist visas so we are required to be with our guides the whole time, with some exceptions for places like the hotel or the ice rink.

That being said, they're always very friendly and are not fun-police. They will join us for beers and a game of pool and are always making jokes. They're also very knowledgeable so it is honestly really great to have the there to answer peoples questions.

2die4OG6 karma

When you mean support people with disability in North Korea do you mean help them into the reclamation chambers ? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/11286517/North-Korea-leaves-disabled-to-die.html

GordonHI6 karma

No we mean understanding how they currently treat them and what is their long term strategy on that matter. It is still very unclear as they only very recently did progress on this topic showing positive signs and willingness to cooperate and the urgency of the situation bolsters our determination to improve the condition of people with intellectual disability in North Korea.

GordonHI3 karma

While I'm not an expert in what has happened in the disability community in the DPRK in the past, I would like to point out that your article is very outdated. The DPRK signed and ratified the UN disability convention last year and has been making clear efforts to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Regular visitors will now tell you that people with disabilities are often seen on the streets in public and that support programs are now available, including facilities for people using wheelchairs. There are multiple international organizations that are now working in the same field as us to assist the local authorities in their efforts.

2die4OG2 karma

Yeah and they have closed all the gulags as well haven't they ? I'm not disparaging what your org is doing it's commendable just saying wouldn't trust the NK as far as I can throw a feather

GordonHI2 karma

Again, I have no expert knowledge to add to a discussion about political camps. I can say that they are making improvements to their disability services and we are cautiously and pragmatically attempting to help where we can.

seanjohnston2 karma

excellent reply. and good on you to use the great sport of hockey to do so -a Canadian

GordonHI2 karma

Thanks for your support!

effexxor5 karma

Who is going to win the Conne Smythe this year and why is it Jake Guentzel?

GordonHI10 karma

I'll take the long shot with Malkin, but your probably right. Still the finals to go though, a lot could happen.

effexxor2 karma

I dunno if Malkin is a long shot. His point totals are just stupid by this point and it frankly feels wrong to guess against him, but I doubt that the voters will be able to look past how amazing of a story it would be to have a rookie win it again.

Are you able to somehow watch the finals over there?

GordonHI7 karma

Yeah, I'm not an expert on the NHL thats for sure :).

I'm actually in Denver at the moment, but no, its not usually possible to watch any live sports on tv inside North Korea unless it is covered on one of the local channels, on which hockey isn't too prominent. It might be possible to stream it from the internet at one of the hotels but the rates for WIFI are quite expensive so you'd need to be a pretty dedicated fan to go for it.

effexxor4 karma

What's the most popular sport on their tv stations? And, crucially, do they have a North Korean version of Don Cherry? I suddenly have a fantastic image in my mind of an elderly Asian man in a fantastic and garish suit with prints of the Great Leader yelling about sports while another man shuffles papers and sighs a little.

GordonHI4 karma

lol not too sure about the Don Cherry thing, my Korean is limited to a few words so I never understand a word of what's going on when I watch the North Korean broadcasts and it's usually the news or movies playing.

The most popular sports are soccer, basketball and volleyball so I would assume that those are the ones that end up on TV the most. Ive personally seen weightlifting being covered.

Sumocolt7685 karma

Are you ever afraid of being held hostage?

GordonHI11 karma

We are working with Lupine Travel, who has been taking thousands of tourists in-country over the past few years without any incident, even minor, so no, not at all ;)

Would you?

DORTx25 karma

Hey Gordon! I've signed up to be one of your goalies for the upcoming trip, my question to you is will we be able to get one of those sweet DPRK jerseys as a souvenir?

GordonHI8 karma

Hey /u/DORTx2 Most likely yes, the DPRK does not sell their jerseys publicly so the only way to get one is to trade for it with a Korean player. Both years we've done the event every player on the team left with a jersey, in exchange they left some of their equipment behind for the Korean players to use. The best part is that by doing it this way you can get the player to autograph it as well!

GordonHI7 karma

We're glad your coming to be our goalie this year as well! We can use all the help we can get in that department after last years 16-1 loss :)

DORTx24 karma

Haha, looking forward to it, I'll do my best!

GordonHI8 karma

No pressure, we're sure you'll do just fine! As long as you have fun its a victory in our books

DORTx21 karma

My gear is all custom so I don't want to give any of it up, do you know what the other players traded? I'd be more than willing to pick up some new gear or sticks just for trading.

GordonHI6 karma

Usually it's player sticks but anything goes, as long as the gear you bring is in good condition (they need it to last a few seasons) they're usually more than happy to come to an agreement.

DORTx24 karma

Awesome I'll bring a couple extra sticks!

GordonHI6 karma

For sure, some players managed to leave with multiple jerseys to give to their friends or even special jerseys, for example we managed to get some game-worn jerseys from the game they won the World Championships two years ago.

-JDB-4 karma

What's the biggest misconception about North Koreans?

GordonHI13 karma

I would say the biggest misconception is that they are brain-washed robots who show little emotion. Our participants are always surprised the first time they are in North Korea and see somebody smile and wave. Sometimes the coverage in our media serves to dehumanize ordinary North Koreans and we forget that underneath all the rhetoric they are just people - moms, dads, daughters and sons. They have ambitions in their lives, individual personalities and are curious to learn about whatever they can.

I would also add that there is a big misconception about the level of technological know-how among the younger generation. We regularly see people playing games on tablet computers, texting on their phones and other ordinary things that millennials might do elsewhere.

fancyhatman188 karma

Do you think you see lots of smiling people because they control who and what you see?

GordonHI4 karma

No, I think that the people of North Koreans are human beings who have the capacity to show human emotions. I have also on multiple occasions been able to roam the streets of Pyongyang without minders and people still smiled.

fadetoblack2374 karma

What part of North Korean culture do you find most interesting?

GordonHI16 karma

To be honest I feel that we know so little about North Korean culture that almost anything I discover is exciting. For example, I was talking to one of our guides last time I was there and he told me that as a child his nickname was Moufasa - as in the Lion King. I never would have thought that a Disney movie was popular enough in North Korea for kids to get nicknames from it.

I also find it very interesting to have discussions with North Koreans about how they view their own social responsibilities and roles in their communities. It's fascinating to learn about how life works in a communist society.

BloosCorn4 karma

What a coincidence. I'm right now taking a procrastination break from writing a paper for a university class broadly about engagement with North Korea to listen to Arirang for motivation. Hockey and Korea are two of my favorite things, and engagement through sports and culture something I'm very passionate about.

Could I ask you to speak a bit to why you think cultural engagement of this sort is important? What kinds of changes do you see it bringing? And if I might ask a third, what kinds of hurdles have you faced and do you expect to face in the future to bring these kinds of programs to fruition?

Thanks for doing this AMA and for your work in bringing people together!

GordonHI6 karma

I think that on a basic level that the average westerner understands very little about how North Koreans live, and I feel that it's critical that on both sides of any tense political situation there are people who consider each other friends, or at least understand a foreigner on a personal level.

More broadly speaking I believe that through sports its possible to create a venue free from politics, where we can interact and find further areas of mutual interest. This happened during the planning of our first trip when it became clear that the DPRK was making a clear effort to improve the lives of its citizens with intellectual disabilities. I have worked for Special Olympics in the past so the opportunity to work with people with disabilities interested me and I believed in it as a cause. If there is no dialogue between communities then we will never learn about our similarities.

We don't face too many hurdles other than some difficulties in communication both during the planning phases and while we are in country but nothing that can't be overcome. Our partners in the DPRK are very capable and helpful. I would add that we do face some issues related to the stigma of working with the DPRK, as is evident by some of the comments on this AMA.

Thanks for your support!

Faulk284 karma

Could you set something like that up in the USA for the left and right wing political camps? There is so much hate and political propaganda especially on Reddit

GordonHI2 karma

Haha yeah that could be our next focus as it seems the US has been getting more and more polarized recently. Any idea where to start? Sorry for taking so long to answer by the way.

lizardflix4 karma

When you guys eat, do you throw away the scraps or donate them to the children with disabilities?

GordonHI6 karma

Ok I will interpret this as a token of interest for our sports program.

So far we have had the unique opportunity to bring a professional from Special Olympics to organize workshops for children with intellectual disabilities at the occasion of our events and we could initiate discussions with local officials to discuss the next steps to be taken to further develop our programs.

More generally, we raise funds that we allocate to our sports programs to run workshops in-country, provide them with appropriate equipments to improve their own programs and facilitate dialogue between leading organizations working with people with intellectual disabilities and local governmental organisations in order to implement long-term and large-scale projects to better integrate fragile populations into the society. We are still unable donate those funds to local organization as unfortunately we are still negotiating to find a unique point of contact to collaborate on our programs as well as to ensure the funds are properly allocated. It is important to keep in mind we have started these programs last year and negotiations with local officials to progress on the development of our initiative are lengthy and difficult given that we basically start from scratch.

The donation represents roughly 10% of the participation fee. The rest are used to cover the costs associated with organizing the events. Also we run the sport programs internally in order to have full control of how we allocate the funds.

Another example of how we contribute to local development is our current project of raising enough money to bring a full team of youth players to Vancouver, Canada to play in a local elite competition therefore fostering the development of their skills and to a broader extent, to the entire hockey community in North Korea.

Don't hesitate to let me know if you have more questions.

You can find more information in this brochure: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxDQRbPZO93IRGNhNkh2R29JaUk/view

Jaws_Megalodon4 karma

What's the most memorable thing that happened when playing?

GordonHI6 karma

Well this year we had a 75 years old goalie joining us and I have to admit he stopped some great shots in stunning actions given his age!

Joke aside (he really joined though), we always organize a 'friendship game' at the end of each trip when both our team of international players and the DPRK national team mix together and play against each other swapping their jerseys. This moment is always very emotional and that's often the most memorable one, as much for us, the organizers, as for the players and their North Korean counterparts.

CarlWayne2DUI4 karma

I'm assuming you all don't really fight since the same is more political than athletic?

GordonHI3 karma

Oh quite the contrary our players give their maximum but so far we did not have the chance to bring strong enough players to beat them you are right. However we really aim for putting together a very skilled team and even the North Korean team would be pleased if we would do so. They want to practice and play hard and they are tough guys as well so they would love to be challenged by high level players! Are you among them?

CarlWayne2DUI3 karma

I mean actually fight. You all don't have an enforcer do you?

GordonHI5 karma

Oh my mistake, I did not get it. No we don't allow any brutal actions as we are here to promote friendship rather than hatred and we want to avoid any incident or bad vibes on the ice.

GordonHI2 karma

No, our games are about having fun and making friends. We don't play with full body checking or fighting

misterkrad4 karma

HOW did you break out of the great dprk firewall?

GordonHI3 karma

Hey there, well in fact we are not currently in North Korea. We provide our participants with the opportunity to visit this country, meet its people, discover its culture and above all play hockey against their national team. Let me know if you have more questions!

ZamboniGuyWhosFly214 karma

So do you guys need a zamboni driver or what's the deal?

GordonHI2 karma

Zamboni

Feel free to join us and ask the zamboni driver directly if you want, he could let you drive who knows ;)

GoldenHawk074 karma

Have the DPRK players ever asked or said something that you had to correct them on regarding your country, or just the world outside of NK?

GordonHI9 karma

As a Canadian myself, most of the questions I get asked are quite benign as relations aren't tense between our countries. I often get asked things like "how is Wayne Gretsky doin" and things of that nature.

Our American guests do notice that sometimes the narrative inside Korea is different than the US narrative in respect to some key events. We encourage participants to keep an open mind and to keep comments and questions relating to any differences respectful. In the end, we're not there to rewrite history books, we're there to forge cross-cultural connections in the hopes of finding opportunities to collaborate on projects in the charitable field.

trilinearmipmap4 karma

Does it bother you that the North Korean regime holds hundreds of thousand of its citizens (including children) in brutal concentration camps where they are tortured and starved, with a death rate of 20% to 25% per year? Do you see any parallels between your position, and people who attended the 1936 Berlin Olympics, or westerners who supported Stalin during the Ukranian holocaust?

GordonHI16 karma

I think that you are misguided when you make the assumption that by playing a sports game we are somehow making a political statement. When the Canucks play in Denver do you consider that a statement in support of Guantanamo Bay?

As I've already mentioned in an earlier response the global community almost unanimously agrees with our vision and the merits of our project. I will once again refer you to a segment from the Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - drafted by the UN Human Rights Commission which states very clearly the following:

"The commission of inquiry recommends that States and civil society organizations foster opportunities for people-to-people dialogue and contact in such areas as culture, science, sports, good governance and economic development that provide citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with opportunities to exchange information and be exposed to experiences outside their home country. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other States should remove applicable obstacles to people-to-people contact, including measures that criminalize travel and contact to the extent that these are not in accordance with relevant obligations under international human rights law."

You can access the full report here:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIDPRK/Pages/ReportoftheCommissionofInquiryDPRK.aspx

So to answer your initial question, we are actually very proud of the work that we do!

burgundybob4 karma

I think that you are misguided when you make the assumption that by playing a sports game we are somehow making a political statement.

On the contrary, boycott of sporting events was used to make a political statement against the South African apartheid. I'm not making a judgement either way, just pointing out that this will absolutely be seen as primarily a political statement by the majority of people.

GordonHI10 karma

Yes, it is possible to turn sports into a political event, but sports in and of themselves are not political. I can't change the publics perception of what we do, but I can say that the world's biggest sports organizations agree with us. South Korea just let North Korean athletes play hockey in Seoul, and their own athletes in Pyongyang.

mlorusso43 karma

What seems to be the general morale of the North Koreans when you play them? Do they seem happy with their lives and government? Have you ever had people bad mouth the regime or ask you to help them escape?

GordonHI3 karma

In fact last time we played them they look quite pretentious. We also interacted with the women's team this year and they were very cheerful and smiling. Other than that they are quite friendly and welcoming. We try to allow as much opportunities for exchange between players as possible however the language barrier is often hard to overcome. Our two guides are usually here to serve as middle men are translate everything between players but you can imagine it is not very convenient.

Helenius3 karma

There are disabled people in DPKR?

According to The Red Chapel(Danish documentary) there aren't...

GordonHI3 karma

Yes as James mentioned things are changing slowly in North Korea on that matter. Last year we were extremely pleased to have the opportunity to meet children with intellectual disabilities and to bring a representative of Special Olympics to run workshops with them. So far, all our partners had no doubt we would go home empty handed and in fact we could publicly advertise this event. We are now trying to go one step further, setting up a long-term large-scale local development project aimed at better integrating people with intellectual disabilities into the society.

Helenius8 karma

Propaganda at it's finest work.

First they let their people think that their country is perfect and the west is evil.

Now they keep disabled people in order to get more charities.

Fuck DPRK so hard.

GordonHI3 karma

In fact we don't donate those funds to local organization. We raise funds that we allocate to our sports programs to run workshops in-country, provide them with appropriate equipments to improve their own programs and facilitate dialogue between leading organizations working with people with intellectual disabilities and local governmental organisations in order to implement long-term and large-scale projects to better integrate fragile populations into the society.

jomarcenter3 karma

how does NK treat their people with disabilities especially mentally ones? due to the nature on how NK does their things People with mental disabilities would be easily in trouble with the government due to the nature of it.

GordonHI4 karma

That is really one of our main goals, understand how they currently treat them and what is their long term strategy on that matter. It is still very unclear as they only very recently did progress on this topic showing positive signs and willingness to cooperate.

GordonHI2 karma

I can't speak about this as an expert in reference to earlier periods in time. I have begun my work with people with disabilities in the country after they signed the UN convention on disabilities and had begun making clear efforts on their own.

Globally, cultural norms often result in people with intellectual disabilities being marginalized and those same cultural norms do exist in the DPRK. What I can say is that the local authorities are committed to improve local services and re-integrate people with disabilities and I believe that it is a great cause which should be supported.

armbone3 karma

Hey, are you affiliated or connected at all with the Beijing International ice hockey league? I know they do a trip every year. Is this the same one?

GordonHI3 karma

Yes, we work with Curtis and several of players from the Beijing League joined us last year, for our first Pyongyang Ice Hockey League. In fact the first two days of the trip next year will take place in Beijing and include a friendly game with the Beijing Hockey League followed by a trip to the Great Wall before leaving to Pyongyang!

iwas99x2 karma

Hello, I have a few questions,

How did you get permission from your government for this trip?

how often are you on Reddit and what are your favorite subreddits?

What is the reaction like from people in South Korea about the Friendship Game?

Did you see the documentary about Dennis Rodman's basketball game against the DPRK team? If so, what did you think of it?

Will you have a camera crew taking video and photos of the game and trip?

How did you get into hockey and what other sports do you like?

How much Korean can you read, write and speak?

Do you like Korean music and food?

What are the specific goals of these games?

GordonHI4 karma

Thanks for all the questions! That's what we were hoping for when we started this. I'll do my best to answer them below:

How did you get permission from your government for this trip?

The Canadian government does not place restrictions on travel to North Korea so there was no need to ask for special permission. However, we are very committed to ensuring that we operate on a strict ethical foundation so we reached out to two Canadian Senators, who helped spread the word about our project in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In all our discussions with government officials of multiple countries, we have never received a response that was critical of our efforts.

how often are you on Reddit and what are your favorite subreddits?

I would say I'm a weekly redditor, this is my favorite subreddit cus I like hearing from individuals themselves about their stories. I also follow r/hockey regularly and a few others.

What is the reaction like from people in South Korea about the Friendship Game?

I've never personally been to South Korea but generally most South Koreans I speak to are supportive of what we are doing and are more curious to hear stories about the North. Many South Koreans still have family north of the border so they often have a soft spot for the people of the DPRK. When the North Korean women's team played against the South in South Korea last month, a lot of South Koreans turned up to cheer them on.

Did you see the documentary about Dennis Rodman's basketball game against the DPRK team? If so, what did you think of it?

Yes I did, while I've never met or spoken with him, I believe that Dennis Rodman had good intentions, but that some of his personal issues combined with his inexperience in the global arena let to a situation that was less than ideal. While I do not support all of his actions, I would like to commend him for having the courage to stand up for something he believes in, knowing fully that it will cost him sponsors. In the end, he always stated that his only goal was to open up the country a little bit more. I can honestly say that his experience did make it somewhat easier for us to do our projects, albeit in a roundabout way. So for that, I believe he deserves some credit.

Will you have a camera crew taking video and photos of the game and trip?

Yup, we bring a few cameras every year and are saving up footage to hopefully make a documentary down the road after we develop our disability programs a little bit more. We feel that we have an interesting story that's worth telling, so we will do everything we can to share it with the world.

How did you get into hockey and what other sports do you like?

Being Canadian I grew up playing hockey but was never the greatest player. Once I got into highschool i gave it up for my elite lacrosse teams. I also played basketball, skied and snowboarded and boxed.

After I finished high school I started travelling so it was hard for me to find hockey teams to play on, although i did manage to play a bit in Kenya, Hong Kong and Australia.

How much Korean can you read, write and speak?

Unfortunately not much, I'm making the effort to learn but new languages have never been my strongpoint. Fortunately we have translators with us incase any of the players don't speak english.

Do you like Korean music and food?

Korean food was actually quite nice, I wasn't expecting to like it but I was surprised. A lot more diversity than I was expecting.

I can't say I'm the biggest fan of most of the music I've heard but I always love being exposed to new forms of music so its great to hear and see it performed for something new.

What are the specific goals of these games?

Our initial goal was just to try and find a venue in which we could put politics aside and see what we could accomplish through that. The idea worked allowing us to work on our sports programs for children with intellectual disabilities and other projects we have in the works. Our goal is to just see if we can find some common ground and ways to improve the human experience for all the worlds people.

The programs have the added benefit of educating the international community about the people of North Korea, something we feel is very important.

b-rizzy-2 karma

Are you hiring at all?

GordonHI3 karma

Unfortunately not at this point, we always have tonnes of volunteer opportunities to help with our charitable projects but at this point we are a small organization so its just the two of us :)

beamingontheinside2 karma

How is the food there? Is it good quality? Do you boil the water before drinking?

Have you been to a hot spa/sauna (찜질방) (jimjilbang)? They are really great!

GordonHI2 karma

During the tour we usually visit several restaurants and discover many local specialities that are worth a try. And kimchi will always be here to remind you that you are in Korea.

dacmx2 karma

I'm very curious about the logistics of a trip like this. How does travel to North Korea work, especially with a hockey bag and sticks?

GordonHI3 karma

It is a little difficult sometimes as most of our players take the train into the country, meaning they have to carry all their gear and their luggage with them on the train. Worth it for the memories though :)!

We all meet in Beijing and take the train to the Chinese border city of Dandong, once we are there we cross onto a North Korean train and are greeted by customs officials. After a check of our things the train starts moving to Pyongyang. Theres always a bus waiting for us at the train station in Pyongyang to take us to our hotel and the ice rink.

smithyithy_2 karma

Can regular tourists take the train across from China for a 'day visit' for example, or do you have to be part of a guided / tourist group with pre-obtained approval / paperwork?

lupinetravel6 karma

You need to be part of a tour really. Day tours to Sinuiju are possible, with both the option to overnight or not. These can be arranged at pretty short notice but we've never chosen to advertise them as we don't feel the price is worth a day in Sinuiju.

Rason in the North East has some special rules that allow more relaxed trips. Chinese citizens at one point could do a self driving trip to this area, but I'm not sure where that stands at the minute.

  • James from Lupine Travel

smithyithy_3 karma

Thanks for the reply. I do plan to arrange a trip through yourselves in the near future, though I'm not decided on a destination yet, probably Chernobyl!

GordonHI6 karma

You should! Lupine is the best partner we have been working with so far. They are very professional, knowledgable and fun as well ;)

dacmx2 karma

Can Americans enter by train?

GordonHI5 karma

Unfortunately not at this point, they need to take a flight direct to Pyongyang as a result of local administrative requirements. We hope that in the future Americans will be able to join us on the train, it's a great opportunity to see the countryside and to interact with ordinary Koreans who are on the train as well.

DougTheBugg2 karma

Yeah right... how many hockey players have you kidnapped?

GordonHI3 karma

That's not what we do, no worries. We bring players from around the world in this very secretive country and introduce them to its people, culture, food, art and main touristic highlights. And on top of that we offer them the chance to play their favorite sport, ice hockey, against the North Korean national team. That sounds far from the experience of being kidnapped don't you think?

altxatu2 karma

If that's kidnapping then stranger danger is way over blown. That sounds amazing.

GordonHI4 karma

It is indeed! Come have a look by yourself ;)

GordonHI1 karma

Haha no still not

jezisthebest12341 karma

What is life like with leader Kim Jong-Un? is it hard or just like a normal country?

GordonHI4 karma

It is far from being a normal country. It is among the few communist countries left meaning that private property is almost non existent. Most organizations, universities, companies and shops are state controlled. It sounds quite oppressive when living in a capitalist economy but this kind of system can also make things easier for some as things are more predictable.

Then governance is very much centralized in Pyongyang and the country is suffering significant economic and infrastructure development issues due to its isolation on the international stage and its political regime.

dogfriend2 karma

this kind of system can also make things easier for some as things are more predictable.

Explain please.

GordonHI1 karma

I was referring to life under a communist regime. If you take a closer look at the example of East Germany and the way they were living you can hear many testimonials of people who could not stand the western way of living where every little thing is based on competition between individuals. It is something that is not so widespread under communist regimes. Unfortunately not many communist regimes could apply those principle alongside democratic values.

TheAlmightyice1 karma

I've never played hockey. Can I join the team?

GordonHI1 karma

Yeah as James mentioned you are welcome to join as a spectator and would have also the opportunity to participate in the training sessions with the DPRK national team however we can't guarantee you will be part of the team during the games. Keep in mind after playing, participants are taken for tours around Pyongyang and we also organize a day trip to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at the border with South Korea so it's not all about hockey and you can be sure you won't be bored! Don't hesitate to drop us a line at [email protected]

iwas99x1 karma

Roughly how many outdoor and indoor Ice hockey rinks are there in DPRK?

GordonHI2 karma

There are 3 major ones in Pyongyang including the main Pyongyang Ice rink where we usually train and play during our events. That is the one you can see on most of our communication materials. Regarding the rest of the country, they mostly train outdoor on basic rinks or even natural spots.

We have requested to play on the main river going through the capital but we were informed it is not safe at the time of the year we go. The ice is pretty thin in March

DarthBaculum1 karma

Does your charity work go to help people in the collective camps, or is it primarily limited to disabled veterans?

GordonHI3 karma

It primarily focuses on children who have intellectual disabilities who live in Pyongyang and the surrounding areas, we hope to expand across the country. Generally speaking people with intellectual disabilities do not serve in the military, neither do children so they are not veterans.

art33k1 karma

Hey, is it all about hockey or do you also have the chance to visit the country?

GordonHI2 karma

I would say it's about fifty-fifty. We do spend about 6 hours a day at the ice rink (most days) but our days are very long so there is plenty of time left over. We usually wake up at 7-8 for breakfast and a practice, then in the afternoons go sightseeing around Pyongyang before playing a game in the evening. After the game we go to local restaurants and pubs.

Some of the places we visit include a movie studio, the DMZ, monuments, a soccer academy and other interesting places like that. For those who want a bit more adventure after the hockey ends, we're gonna head to the coastal resort city of Wonsan for a few extra days of pure sightseeing.

art33k1 karma

Great thanks for your answer! I've heard that last year you were also planning to go to the famous ski resort??

GordonHI3 karma

No worries, we tried to plan it last year but we didn't have enough of the players that wanted to go. We would love to do it again in the future but we need people who want to join us, or it just wouldn't be that much fun.

BloosCorn0 karma

You've seen the DMZ from the northern side? Woah...

GordonHI3 karma

Yes, it's a very interesting feeling standing on that border from the North side. Can't quite describe it. We take all participants who join on a day trip to go and visit.

burgundybob1 karma

What is the biggest problem you face in organizing this event?

GordonHI5 karma

As you can imagine we have faced a number of issues since we started this project, from finding reliable, trustful and committed partners in-country and abroad to fighting prejudices related to how people consider North Korea and its people. The greatest challenge to me is to ensure people understand the difference between working with the sporting community in the DPRK, and the hockey federation in particular, and dealing with political considerations which are most of the time highly irrelevant and only related to geopolitical agendas from government and don't focus on the development of genuine relationship with people as we try to do

GordonHI1 karma

Hey there, unfortunately Scott is off now but I'm pretty sure he did not visit that country recently. I can double check with him later if you want

Stevenab871 karma

The North Korean shills are back again! Last time was fun, what do you have for us today?

GordonHI6 karma

Yeah I agree we had a lot of fun last time and that's why we are back! You should be the one having questions for us today though, not the contrary ;)

vanhockeyfan0 karma

They have hockey in North Korea?

GordonHI2 karma

Yeah we we're surprised to hear that as well. We've found pictures of hockey games being played on outdoor rinks in Pyongyang as early as the thirties. Now the regularly compete in the IIHF World Championships.

BeastAcademy0 karma

Are the North Koreans you've met very friendly? (I've heard most of them are!)

Also, I love the people of North Korea, so I'm so happy to find others who love them, too. I wish I could visit there!

GordonHI4 karma

Yes actually, most North Koreans I have met are actually very friendly and quite curious to get to know foreigners they interact with. They will regularly ask us questions about stories they heard in the news about our home countries and genuinely seem interested to hear what we have to say.

They also always go out of their way to make sure we are comfortable, often offering their water if we look thirsty. I'm always pleasantly surprised when I work with people in North Korea.

Satans_bloody_farts-5 karma

to support people with disabilities in the DPRK

Why are you supporting Kim jong un?

GordonHI4 karma

It is not a matter of supporting Kim Jong Un and we actually don't. We are dealing with the sporting communities and doing our best to promote mutual understanding between people using sports.