Young Pioneer Tours

North Korean celebrities: making it big in the DPRK

When people write – or talk – about North Korea, it would be easy to assume that the country is merely comprised of the first three leaders of the country: President Kim Il Sung, General Kim Jong Il and current leader Chairman Kim Jong Un. But believe it or not, North Korea is a fully functioning country with actors, sports stars and the odd World Cup hero.

Here’s our guide to some of the most famous sons of North Korea.

James Dresnok

James Dresnok, an infamous North Korean celebrity, poses in front of an anti-US propaganda poster.

James Dresnok was one of the Americans that famously ‘crossed the line’ at the DMZ and defected to North Korea. He recently died there (as a recognised North Korean citizen) and starred in a number of North Korean movies – almost always as the bad guy. Dresnok’s sons survive him, and are also well-recognised citizens.

Pak Doo Ik

Pak Doo Ik makes himself one of the biggest North Korean celebrities in history by scoring against Italy in the 1966 World Cup.
North Korea defeat Italy at the 1966 World Cup.

Until South Korea qualified for the semi-finals of the World Cup, the most successful team had been North Korea in the 1966 World Cup finals (famously won by England). Doo Ik scored a tonne of goals, including the ones that dumped out Italy, and in the 5-3 defeat to Portugal’s Eusabio. Doo Ik and the rest of the North Korean 1966 World Cup squad are still heroes in Middlesborough if you can believe it!

Ri Myung Hun

Ri Myung Hun, perhaps one of the most famous present-day North Korean celebrities, shakes hands with Dennis Rodman.

Ri Myung Hun, also known as Michael Ri (in honour of his favourite player, Michael Jordan), was a former North Korean basketballer who, at 235cm, was also the tallest man in North Korea. Sadly, sanctions blocked him from playing in the NBA. He turned a few heads at the funeral of Kim Jong Il due to his rather tall stature!

Also known as Michael Ri, after Michael Jordan (his favourite player) was a fomer North Korean basketball player, that at 235cm was also the tallest man in the North Korea. Sadly sanctions blocked him from playing in the NBA. He was noticed at the funeral of Kim Jong-il due to his rather tall stature!

Rub shoulders with a North Korean celebrity yourself on one of our tours!

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