Despite escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, two Taiwanese athletes yesterday arrived in Pyongyang to attend the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon, with what they said was a safety guarantee from the event’s organizer.
Chang Chia-che (張嘉哲) and Ho Chin-pin (何盡平) were accompanied by their coach, Hsu Gi-sheng (許績勝), and Cheng Shih-chung (鄭世忠), chief of International Affairs at the Chinese Taipei Track and Field Association.
Before their departure, Cheng said the association decided that the delegation could attend the race as planned after he contacted the organizer regarding safety issues and received reassurances.
Chang, who recorded a time of 2 hours, 16 minutes, 5 seconds at the event last year — the second- best in history by a Taiwanese athlete, also said the organizer had promised him many times that it could guarantee the safety of all athletes.
Chang said he did not give too much thought to safety issues as he cannot control how the situation on the peninsula will evolve, adding that what he can do is to do his best to record a good time.
Ho said he was not worried about his safety.
It was his first time visiting North Korea, and he wished to enjoy the race, he added.
The delegation is scheduled to return home on Monday night, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Runners from Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Ethiopia and more than 600 North Koreans are expected to enter the contest, held each year as part of celebrations of the anniversary of North Korea’s late founder, Kim Il-sung.
A ministry official, who asked to remain anonymous, said yesterday that the ministry has provided the delegation with the latest information about the Korean Peninsula and has given them contact details in case of emergency.
The ministry would keep in regular contact with them and help them leave the country if safety concerns arise, the official said.
There are 25,000 Taiwanese in South Korea at present, including 16,000 who live there and about 1,342 tourists in 68 groups, he said.
Although the ministry has not changed its travel advisory for South Korea, it has advised people to delay non-essential visits to the country.
Additional reporting by CNA