North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un is targeting World Junior Championships in weightlfiting and judo ©AFP/Getty Images

Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, is seeking to open up the borders of the world’s most reclusive country by hosting World Junior Championships in both judo and weightlifting in 2017 and 2018, insidethegames has learned.

Also in 2017, North Korea will host the Asian championships of weightlifting, its number one sport in which it ranked third in the world at the last Olympic Games.

“Our Executive Board is very supportive of North Korea being a host,” said South Korea's President of the East Asia Weightlifting Federation, Sung-Yong Choi.

Choi has been invited north of the border for a visit early next year.

“They must guarantee security for all, but the sporting infrastructure is there, and there would be no problems with hotels,” he added.

“Sport can make us closer.

"We would love to have a sporting exchange between North and South Korea.”

Only last week the two nations, who are still officially at war after the Korean War ended with just a ceasefire in 1953, announced they would be holding high-level political meetings.

They agreed a peace deal in August and are both keen to use sport to foster better relations.

The official announcement of their first global sports event has not yet been made.

But the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported the official visit to Pyongyang last week of Marius Vizer, the man who runs judo’s global governing body.

Officials at the International Judo Federation (IJF) and the Judo Union of Asia were unavailable for comment.

Vizer, who has had a falling-out with senior officials at the International Olympic Committee (IOC), will see the move as a significant political gain, as he could become the first leader of a global governing body to take his sport to North Korea.

North Korea’s Yun Chol Om claimed under 56kg gold on the opening day of the ongoing IWF World Championships ©Getty Images
North Korea’s Yun Chol Om claimed under 56kg gold on the opening day of the ongoing IWF World Championships ©Getty Images

There was a “World Championship” in Pyongyang in 1979, in table tennis, but South Korea and Israel were not invited.

“It is definite, the Junior World Championship of judo will be in our country in 2017,” said a senior member of North Korea’s sporting set-up.

The official, who declined to be named, is working with the country's weightlifting team at the World Championships being held in Houston, Texas.

“We will also have the weightlifting Asian Championship in 2017, and we want the Junior World Championships of weightlifting in 2018,” he said.

He also pointed out that North Korea won a judo gold medal in London and that judo was a “strong sport” in his country.

North Korea failed last April with a bid for the 2017 weightlifting world juniors, when the event was awarded to Japan.

Tokyo is host city for the 2020 Olympic Games and preference was given to Japan.

“But it was great to see North Korea bidding,” said Attila Adamfi, director general of the Budapest-based International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), who has made a visit to Pyongyang.

"It would be good for all sport if they hosted a World Championships.”

A final decision is expected to be made next June at a meeting in Georgia capital Tbilisi before the 2016 World Junior Championships, insidethegames understands.

If successful with a junior event the North Koreans would be able to bid for a Senior World Championships, which would attract not just hundreds of athletes and coaches - as would the juniors - but a significant media interest, too. Inadequate television technology in North Korea is one of the concerns for sport governing bodies.

North Korean athletes have surprised everybody here in Houston.

Despite never being seen in anything other than the national team uniform, they have been buying American merchandise to take home with them, while also attending every press conference, hugging opponents, and posed for photos with fans.

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