When the North Korean authorities banned skiers and snowboarders from leaving the country in the early 1980s, it was the first time they had banned them from living in the country.
Now, thanks to a series of high-profile skiers who came out as gay, North Korean gay men and women are living openly in the capital, Pyongyang.
The skiers – including North Korean ex-soldiers, musicians, writers and other figures who made it big in the communist country – have welcomed the opening of a new chapter in the history of gay rights in the world’s third largest economy.
Gay rights activists said they were thrilled with the outcome of the new chapter, which will open the door to a new era of human rights and equality for North Koreans.
“I think we have finally reached the day of opening up, and that is good news for us,” said Lee Jong-hyeon, an outspoken critic of the North’s leadership.
“It will be a new day for us, a new life for us in North Korean society, and for the rest of the world.”‘
It’s a great opportunity’For some North Korean activists, the opening is a chance to celebrate and celebrate a milestone for the country’s long struggle for democracy and human rights.
“We are happy because the first place to be able to be out is the capital of the country, and now we are going to be allowed to enjoy our new freedom,” said Song Kyung-woo, a political analyst and author.
“It’s like a big party.”
He added: “This is a great chance for the LGBT community to start living in North Koreans.”
For the most part, North Koreans are still restricted by the communist government.
But with the opening, they will be able, for the first, to access the wider world, and to make a difference, said Park Kyung Hak, a spokesman for the UN’s human rights office.
“If they want to start making a difference and making the world a better place, that’s a huge step,” he said.
In recent years, North Korea has been under increased pressure from international organisations to lift restrictions on the gay community.
In 2015, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North and South Korea said he would recommend that the country lift its ban on gay people.
But North Korean officials have said that they will not change their stance and that the ban is “illegal”.
The opening of the skating rink marks a significant milestone for North Korean LGBT activists, many of whom have been working for years to build support for gay rights.
For years, activists have pushed for the inclusion of gay people in North society, including the legalization of gay marriage and adoption, and a recognition of gay life in North culture.
The new skiers have come out in a bid to make their voices heard, and have become a powerful rallying cry for the movement.
“These guys are not a group that is just one person.
They’re an international team,” said Kim Myong-hoon, a North Korean skier who is a gay rights activist.”
They’re a team, and they have a lot of support around the world.
They represent the gay and lesbian community and they deserve to be heard.”
Kim said he had not been able to see his mother for a long time after the ban.
“When I came out, she cried.
I don’t know how she did,” he recalled.”
But she was happy and she said, ‘Oh my God, it’s so amazing’.”
Kim said his mother’s heart had been broken by the ban, but he and his sister decided to come out publicly.
“Our mother is very happy, she has a lot more courage, and she’s now able to talk to her daughter,” he added.
“People here don’t just see me as a man.
They see me the same way they see Kimmy, who’s a beautiful person, a very brave person.”‘
A new beginning’A spokesman for North Korea’s parliament, Jang Song Thaek, said that the skiers were welcomed with open arms and that “the government of the DPRK [North Korea] has now opened a new beginning in this regard”.
“We congratulate the skier team and the whole team on opening the door for freedom, and the entire North Korean people will now have a new opportunity to celebrate their freedom,” he told reporters.
“The skier and skiers will have the chance to enjoy their new life in the DPRK.”
Jang also noted that the government had recently made an “important decision” to lift its restrictions on gay athletes and entertainers.
In addition to lifting the ban on people who identify as gay and lesbians, the government said that it would lift the ban and allow the public to have gay-themed events, including performances, weddings and dances.
The announcement came as the North Korea parliament passed a law on the legalization and acceptance of gay couples in North Carolina.