A special adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in North Korea on Saturday on a sports diplomacy mission that he said would include discussions about promoting sports for women, the disabled and the disadvantaged.
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Wilfried Lemke, Ban’s special adviser on sport for development and peace, is making a four-day trip to North Korea in what is the highest-level U.N. visit in nearly two years.
The visit takes place in the wake of tightened U.N. sanctions on the impoverished country for carrying out a banned underground nuclear test in February.
Lemke said his goal was to find out more about how sports are developing in North Korea.
"I have some priorities: sport for women, sport for persons with a disability, as well as sport in conflict areas and of course, as well, sport for persons in disadvantaged villages (and) neighborhoods," he said.
Promoting sports has been a priority for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who took power in late 2011. Among the sites Lemke is expected to visit is a new ski resort under construction near the eastern city of Wonsan.
Lemke has pushed both Koreas to use sports to promote dialogue and foster peace. North and South Korea have remained divided by a heavily fortified border since the Korean War ended 60 years ago.
In January, Lemke visited Pyeongchang, the eastern South Korean mountain town that will host the 2018 Winter Olympics. South Korea also will stage the Asian Games in 2014, and the Universiade in 2015.