Japan lawmaker eyes pro-wrestling in North Korea
Former Japanese professional wrestler and a Japanese parliament member Antonio Inoki returns from North Korea on January 16, 2014 at Tokyo Inernational airport - by Yoshikazu Tsuno
Antonio Inoki, whose own contribution to the far-fetched fight storylines enthralled millions in Japan during his career, is intending to co-organise some professional grappling in the North Korean capital.
Inoki, now a lawmaker in Japan's upper house, will team up with Pyongyang authorities to bring performers from around the world, one of his secretaries told AFP.
The exact date and the names of the participants "are still being decided," the secretary said, noting the event would be held as "part of sports diplomacy".
Inoki, 71, heads a non-profit organisation aimed at establishing sports-based international exchanges, which opened an office in Pyongyang last year.
Inoki, whose mentor in professional wrestling was the late Korean-born Mitsuhiro Momota, aka Rikidozan, has visited North Korea nearly 30 times since 1994.
After his last visit in January, he told reporters that North Korea seemed "calm" despite a leadership purge last year.
During the four-day trip there, Inoki met Kim Yong-Il, director of the International Department of the North Korean Workers Party, and other officials.
If the bout goes ahead, it will be the second time Inoki has been involved in wrestling in North Korea. In 1995, he organised a sports festival in Pyongyang featuring bouts between Japanese and American pro wrestlers.
The Tokyo government, which does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, has advised its citizens to refrain from visiting North Korea as part of its stance on the communist state's nuclear bomb programme and missile tests, as well as its perceived refusal to come clean on abductions of Japanese during the Cold War.
Inoki's low-profile visit in January came days after flamboyant former basketball player Dennis Rodman caused international controversy with a trip to visit his "friend for life" Kim, singing "Happy Birthday" on a basketball court ahead of a special exhibition game.
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