Running in the sun: The pyongyang marathon and its evolution into a sport tourism event

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In April 2014, for the first time since the event was established, over 200 foreign recreational runners participated in the Pyongyang Marathon, which is part of Day of the Sun commemorating the birthday of Kim Il-sung. The decision of the North Korean regime to open the event to foreign amateurs was unusual, thus the paper examines this new approach to the marathon, and to tourism in general, by contextualizing them within an historical perspective. It is argued that tourism policy under Kim Jong-un, the third leader of the ‘Kim dynasty’, was unprecedented in terms of its systematic approach to the development of a meaningful tourism industry while also particularly emphasizing Western tourism and sport tourism. With the inclusion of the marathon into its tourism industry, North Korea strengthened its place in the worldwide trend of sport event tourism, yet the Pyongyang Marathon has stood out by being more about branding a country than a city. In this regard, this sport tourism event has offered the visitors a look into a ‘different normality’, which was indicative to the rationale of the regime that benefited from the attention it drew through its image as ‘unexpected’ and ‘mysterious’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2207-2225
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number18
StatePublished - 11 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Byungjin line
  • Kim Jong-un
  • North Korea
  • Pyongyang marathon
  • Sport tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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