Marco Grund is deaf, but he hasn’t let that stop him representing his country in sport. He’s competed internationally with the German deaf water polo team at three ‘Deaflylmpics’ – winning gold in Australia in 2005. Marco’s brother, Robert Grund, is also deaf and worked in North Korea for years, trying to help deaf people.
The two Grund brothers have now returned to Pyongyang for their latest project – trying to set up a team of deaf water polo players to take part in a competition in Germany next year.
“I’ve come to Pyongyang to train deaf Koreans here to play beach water polo,” explains Marco Grund. “I hope to organize the second International Deaf Beach Water Polo Championship in Berlin next year, 2018. And I hope that deaf North Koreans will be able to take part in this, and I hope they set up a deaf water polo group in North Korea, it would be the first in Asia.”
North Korea’s Federation for the Protection of the Disabled selected seven young deaf men for water polo training.Grund is spending hours in the water with them at one of Pyongyang’s main swimming pools – the Changgwanwon. A big challenge for beginner water polo players is learning to stay afloat using just your legs, while you use your hands to pass and catch the ball.
“I just started learning how to play water polo a week ago and the training today was very good. I’m going to try my best to train hard at water polo.” says 22-year-old Kang Myong Won.
North Korea ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability last year, that requires promotion of the inclusion of people with disabilities in sport. In 2012, North Korea tried for the first time to send a competitor to the Paralympics in London. Since then, it has made more effort to show it is taking care of people with disabilities.
Contact between North Korea and the rest of the world is still quite limited, especially for its disabled population. But if this small group of deaf North Korean men makes their way to the competition in Germany next year, they’ll also come into contact with other deaf people from around the world.
Source: Associated Press