It’s not exactly everyone’s idea of a perfect travel destination, but for three Merrylee athletes, North Korea was the place to be.
Political tensions aside, oh, and not forgetting the fact that the country decided to launch a ballistic missile over Japan during their visit, everything turned out pretty well!
The trio travelled to Pyongyang to take part in the 20th International Taekwon-Do Federation World Championships.
Instructor John Reilly, accompanied students, Karen Frondigoun and Malcolm White, both 3rd degree black belts, as the sole representatives from Scotland, competing against 250 of the world’s best players from 69 countries.
The competition took place over four days and at the end of the event Karen emerged with a silver medal for power breaking, beaten only by a dominant competitor from the host nation.
John also had something to celebrate as he received a senior grade promotion whilst attending the event, being promoted to 7th degree Black Belt – Master status.
John said: “Had it not been for the news reports on the missile launch, we were totally unaware of the event.
“Daily life in Pyongyang continued peacefully with the locals going about their lives seemingly oblivious to the military situation.”
The Taekwon-Do visitors convoy was treated with VIP levels of hospitality, being given police escorts on every journey around the city, to and from the hotel to competition venue.
John said: “Aside from the considerable scrutiny entering the country, and the at times overbearing chaperoning, myself and my colleagues all had a wonderful time and would willingly visit the region again.”