There is an interesting feature in the latest issue of Spotlight on Skating about Alexander Abt. Since his retirement from eligible skating he has spent a lot of time in Japan headlining shows for the Prince (Hotels) Ice World tour. From there he was invited to do some shows in North Korea. He was there for nine days, even though he only did three shows, because there is only one flight out of the country per week. Likewise, there is only one television station, which mostly broadcasts patriotic messages extolling the virtues of the North Korean Supreme Leader.
"(North) Korea is pretty bad for the people that live there and it's like going back in time one-hundred years. (It is) probably the only place on earth that is a completely closed country."
Three secret police/bodyguards were assigned to accompany him everywhere he went, to make sure that he did not speak to any Korean people. His guards were forbidden to speak to him also. The international skaters stayed in a big hotel -- 20 stories high -- but it was completely empty except for them. Abt's room was the only one that had hot water, so the other skaters had to come to his room to take showers. And at ten at night all the lights would go off because there was no electricity.
"It is such a strict closed country they even took my cell phone and passport," says Sasha.
On a pleasanter note, Abt says that the country does have a skating program. "One guy did a triple Axel and a girl did five triples" in the show. And Alexander's 4 year old son now speaks both Russian and Japanese.