Many people talk about North Koreans being short, and whilst some of them obviously are, I know at least a few that are very tall. There’s a guide I know called Mr Lee, everyone calls him tall Lee. I’ll accept that’s fairly anecdotal, but then there’s Ri Myung Hun!
Ri Myung-hun, who referred to himself as Michael Ri, after fairly legendary basketball player Michael Jordan, was a North Korean basketball international, who came in at whopping 7 foot 8 inches, or 2.35 meters tall. That’s even taller than YPT guide Rowan Beard, if you’ve ever been to North Korea with us (a whole foot in fact)!
At one stage he was said to be the tallest basketball player on the planet, and like any basketball player or fan wanted to play in the pinnacle competition, the NBA (National Basketball Association), and even went to Canada for tryouts and to get himself ready for a tryout with NBA clubs.
Sadly, a little piece of legislation known as the “trading with the Enemy act”, rather than North Korean reticence, put paid to Ri Myung-hun’s chances of playing in the NBA and the deal never happened.
This was and is a real shame, when you consider a number of North Korean footballers have been allowed to go, and have flourished in foreign leagues, such as Jong Tae Se and Han Kwang Song, currently plying his trade at Juventus.
Sadly probably the highlight of his international career was in a game between mixed teams of players from both Koreas where Ri scored 26 points in 21 minutes, although the “dankyol” (unified) side lost 141–138.
During the funeral of General Kim Jong Il there was an extremely tall person seen at the funeral, which like with most things garnered lots of press coverage, intrigue, guesswork and of course lies. Generally speaking, it is assumed that the tall gentleman was Ri…
The truth rarely is as interesting as a tabloid story!.