Former Japanese professional wrestler Antonio Inoki, a member of the Japanese House of Councillors, on Monday announced he will host an exhibition of pro wrestling and mixed martial arts in Pyongyang next month.
This seems aimed at sparking a resumption of civilian exchanges between Japan and North Korea after Tokyo last Friday partially lifted sanctions.
Inoki (71) said the event will take place in Pyongyang on Aug. 30-31. It will also feature exhibitions of martial arts like hapkido, taekwondo, and ssireum.
Inoki recalled that when he hosted the first pro wrestling event in the North in 1995, "women's wrestling matches were unexpectedly popular."
Fighters in next month's event will include "about 20" wrestlers and martial artists from around the world, including France, the Netherlands, Southeast Asia and the U.S. Organizers are preparing to broadcast the spectacle live on the Internet.
Ahead of the event, Inoki will visit Pyongyang for a week from July 9 to 15 to discuss the event. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Inoki is free to travel now that a travel ban to North Korea has been lifted.
Some Japanese reporters wanted to accompany Inoki, but the North denied them visas. Inoki has visited the North 28 times since 1995, maintaining his own little diplomatic channel.