North Korea Wants Pro Wrestlers From U.S. For Summer Tournament

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KIM JONG UN
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is a noted sports fan who considers former NBA star Dennis Rodman to be a friend. Now, the nation is trying to lure U.S. and Japanese pro wrestlers to the country for an August tournament. | ASSOCIATED PRESS

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — The wild world of professional wrestling is heading to North Korea.

The authoritarian nation locked in a long standoff with its neighbors and the United States over its nuclear bomb ambitions announced plans Monday for an international pro-wrestling match in the capital, Pyongyang, in late August.

"World renowned pro-wrestlers" from Japan, the U.S. and other countries will take part, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch. It provided few other details.

A former professional wrestler turned Japanese lawmaker, Kanji Inoki, will head the organizing committee along with the chair of North Korea's International Martial Arts Games Committee, the dispatch said.

Inoki, perhaps best known in the United States for his exhibition bout with boxer Muhammad Ali in the 1970s, is a regular visitor to North Korea and organized another pro-wrestling event in Pyongyang in 1995.

Despite the recent high-profile arrests and detentions of foreign tourists, impoverished North Korea is keen to earn cash revenue by boosting tourism. It has highlighted group tours to major arts performances or attractions the country wants to show off.

North Korea has announced plans to create special trade and tourism zones. It has also unveiled its first luxury ski resort, aimed largely at luring ski enthusiasts from abroad.

Earlier this year it allowed foreign amateur runners to compete for the first time in the annual Pyongyang marathon.

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