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Teeing Off With Pyongyang's Elite
[Photo essay] Nayan Sthankiya shares his impressions of a 9-hole course in the North's capital
Nayan Sthankiya (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2005-01-19 14:47 (KST)   
Visitors to Pyongyang that can't do without a round of golf can enjoy 9 holes at the Yanggakdo golf course located at the Yanggakdo hotel.
©2005 NSthankiya
North Korea has taken the place of the former Soviet Union as the new world villain, easily packaged by Hollywood for consumer consumption. Little is known about the nation beyond what is portrayed in the various media doomsday scenarios. Those who spend the time to look more closely would find that North Korea is not so unlike its brother South Korea -- albeit 60 or 70 years behind the curve.

©2005 NSthankiya
©2005 NSthankiya
Nowhere near as industrial and modern as South Korea, the North feels much like I imagine the South did before rapid industrialization took over. For the average person, life is a day-to-day affair as is the case in any developing or for that matter modern society. For those who have the means, life on the whole is much easier and more enjoyable.

©2005 NSthankiya
©2005 NSthankiya
All is not rosy in the North. Famine, government corruption and a propaganda machine that is all pervasive can be a bit much after prolonged exposure, not unlike many non-capitalist nations of today. Despite these shortcomings there are many diamonds in the rough that offer a glimpse into a different side of the country.

©2005 NSthankiya

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©2005 NSthankiya
One such rough is located on an island in the middle of Pyongyang, the Yanggakdo hotel. One of many tourist hotels in the capital, it often houses dignitaries and has almost all the amenities one would expect from home. The major feature of this hotel however is the 9-hole, par 3 golf course, complete with bunkers, sand traps and water hazards. Caddies are available who speak a variety of languages.

©2005 NSthankiya
The Yanggakdo golf course is never overly busy and getting a tee off time is not a problem. Most of the golfers who visit the course are foreign tourists, dignitaries or the Pyongyang elite. North Koreans seem to enjoy their golf so much that many driving ranges have appeared in Pyongyang. Gaesan, south of Pyongyang, even boasts an 18-hole course. There has also been talk of an 18-hole course to be constructed near Geumgangsan tourist resort in conjunction with South Korea.

This fascination with golf is something that can be found in abundance in South Korea, with driving rages perched atop buildings in many cities throughout the country. It seems that the love of golf crosses ideological barriers and that the two Koreas share a similar fascination with the sport. Perhaps there is a Tiger Woods or Park Se-ri in the making in Pyongyang.

©2005 NSthankiya
Nayan Sthankiya is a Canadian photojournalist. Based in South Korea for the last four years, he covers various news and feature stories in Korea, China and Asia Pacific.

His background includes photography, sculpture, painting, design, video and travel. Trained in media arts at the Alberta College of Art and Design, with a minor in photography, his images have been published locally and internationally in magazines, dailies and the Internet.

"Photojournalism is a profession that should not be undertaken lightly, the duty of a photojournalist should be to tell the stories of those that are unable to, at all costs, and by telling those stories effect change in thought and policy," Sthankiya says.
©2005 OhmyNews

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