British entrepreneur to start North Korea golf tournament

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The Independent Online

A young British entrepreneur is putting on the world's first amateur golf competition in North Korea.

North Korea - regarded as one of the world's most secretive societies - has agreed to let Dylan Harris, 32, from Wigan, organise a golf tournament at the country's one and only golf course in Pyongyang.

Mr Harris, who runs Lupine Travel which specialises in unusual getaways, ended up organising the event "by accident" when he tried to set up a one-off golf trip for a very particular customer.

He said: "Some Scottish guy phoned me last summer and said he wanted to play golf in North Korea."

"He kept phoning back. He said he had played golf countries all over the world and North Korea was one of the only ones left. He said; 'can you just ask them?"'

Mr Harris, who had never played golf in his life before, made the call but didn't expect the reaction he got.

"I did call them and surprisingly they said yes. They asked me if golf was a popular sport and they started getting interested in it.

"Then they said, have you ever put on a golf competition before? It was really strange."

"I know nothing about golf. I never thought I would be going over to North Korea to run a golf tournament. It's just bizarre really."

When Mr Harris advertised the contest on his website he was flooded with inquiries.

"I just thought a couple of people would be interested. The tour is full now but I'm still getting inquires coming in every day."

There are 30 people signed up to go on the trip from China, Australia, Britain, America, Germany, France, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg.

Since the news broke about the trip Mr Harris says he has done interviews with Japanese television, France 24 and even The Wall Street Journal.

Mr Harris hopes that his excursion will in some small way help to aid peoples' understanding of a mysterious country - one of the few still under communist rule.

North Korea's nuclear ambitions, fuelled by the leadership of Kim Jong-il, have exacerbated its isolation from the rest of the world and led to it being fixed on the "axis of evil" by former President of the United States George W Bush.

Mr Harris said: "I'm hoping we can use sport as way to build bridges with the North Korean people."

The businessman, who has travelled in North Korea before is not sure what it will be like hosting a tournament there.

"I don't know what to expect. It's controlled when you are over there but it's a good experience."

Each of his customers is paying £850 each for the five-day trip, which includes three days of tours around North Korea - a stipulation from the Government.

Mr Harris said that if the trip is a success he will be able to expand the tournament next year and open it up top more people.

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The North Korean Embassy declined to comment.