[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Friday, May 16, 2008

[North Korea]
1. I had expected my official visit to North Korea to be a bit of an adventure. Having read reports of the country including an article in the latest Economist reporting an impending famine, I was mentally prepared for the worst. But it turned out much better. I, my wife and members of my delegation were treated with warmth and hospitality.

2. In the four days my delegation was there, we travelled west to the main port, Nampho, south to Kaesong City and Panmunjom, and north by train to Dandong in China. Although many people we saw were obviously malnourished (hardly anyone obese) and the cities were underlit at night, we did not see abject poverty or refugees from hunger. Of course, we would not know what conditions in other parts of the country were like but, based on what we saw, conditions were nowhere as dire as what we had read.

3. What struck all of us was how clean the cities and countryside were. Pyongyang must be one of the cleanest cities in the world despite the poor state of maintenance of its buildings. Even remote areas in the coutryside had an air of tidiness and orderliness about them. At the public market we visited, the floor was spotless.

4. Half expecting my request to be turned down, I asked to attend church on Pentescost Sunday. My request was accomodated although I was brought to the well-maintained church only at the end of the service conducted by a priest from South Korea. He told me that there were no Catholic priests in the North. The congregation of men and women (with veiled heads) sang lustily.

5. Everywhere we saw statues and portraits of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. The cult of the leader was reminiscent of Cultural Revolution China. When Kil Il-Sung died, his body was preserved (like Lenin's, Mao's and Ho Chi Minh's). His huge presidential palace became his mausoleum with an endless queue of visitors who had to be cleansed by an air bath before viewing the body. To shelter them from the weather, there is a covered travellator which was easily over one kilometre long.

6. On the last day, we took the train from Pyongyang to Sinuiju before crossing the Yalu River to Dandong in China. I was on a Chinese car. Chatting to the Chinese porter as we looked out at the countryside, he said the scene reminded him of China in the 80's. In Beijing, a senior Chinese official said that North Korea would develop very fast once its economy was opened up. The North Koreas are intelligent, disciplined, organised and educated.

7. The division of the Korean peninsula took place when the entire world was divided into two after the Second World War. Other lines in Europe and Indo-China have disappeared. The one on the Korean peninsula will also disappear one day.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


Blogger WhiteDusk said...

Hi Mr Yeo,

I'm a Singaporean working in HK and have been following news from N.Korea. Like you, I believe that the north will open up some day.

From your visit, do you see any opportunities for Singaporeans to tap into should N.Korea suddenly open up?

Sunday, May 18, 2008 2:55:00 am


Post a comment

<< Home