N. Korean taekwondo athletes stage demonstration performances in Kazakhstan

North Korean taekwondo athletes have staged demonstration performances in Kazakhstan, after the North's team made a rare border crossing into China from North Korea last week to attend a taekwondo event following a yearslong COVID-19 border closure.

The North's demonstration team conducted performances Saturday (Kazakhstan time) for about an hour at the opening ceremony of the ITF Taekwon-Do World Championships held in Astana, Kazakhstan. The ITF stands for the North Korean-led International Taekwondo Federation.

"We've gathered here for peace and friendship. There are no failures, we are all champions," ITF chief Ri Yong-son said.

The North's athletes arrived in Beijing on Thursday, after a pair of buses carrying them crossed from the North Korean border city of Sinuiju into China on Wednesday. They flew from Beijing to Kazakhstan to participate in the taekwondo championships, which kicked off Saturday and will run through Aug. 26.

The rare border crossing by the North's team is seen as a sign of Pyongyang's border reopening after the secretive regime closed its border with China due to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

North Korea sent two athletes to the East Asian Karate Federation Championship held in Taizhou, China in late April, since the country has skipped participation in major international sports events since January 2020 on concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

North Korea has registered seven judokas to compete in the Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, China from Sept. 23-Oct. 8.

Source: Yonhap News Agency