Professional wrestlers from the United States, Japan and several other nations gathered in the North Korean capital this week to participate in an international contest, Pyongyang's state media said Friday.
Kanji Inoki, a Japanese lawmaker who was a pro wrestler, arrived in Pyongyang a day earlier, along with foreign participants. He played a pivotal role in arranging the rare event to take place in the reclusive communist state.
The two-day Pyongyang International Pro-Wrestling Contest is scheduled to open at the Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium on Saturday.
The North's media did not release the list of participants to the outside world.
Sources with related information said 17 pro wrestlers and mixed martial artists will join the event, the first of its kind to be held in the North in 19 years.
They include Bob Sapp of the U.S. and Jerome Le Banner of France, added the sources.
At a press conference, the North's senior sports official, Jang Ung, said the event will be held in the spirit of "independence, peace and friendship," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
KCNA quoted him as adding the participants will "demonstrate their strength, conduct joint training and demonstration with junior judoists and wrestlers" of the North.
Inoki, who co-chairs the organizing committee, also said the goal of the competition is to realize peace in the world through sports and culture, said KCNA.
Meanwhile, Kang Sok-ju, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), attended a reception for the participants and related officials. He is an adviser to the North Korea-Japan Friendship Association,
The pro wrestling event comes as the two nations apparently are stepping up efforts to improve bilateral ties, especially by dealing with the issue of Japanese nationals kidnapped by the North's agents in the 1970s and the 1980s. (Yonhap)