Seoul Mayor Gives Glowing Report of Pyongyang Trip

  • By Kim Sun-yup

    October 02, 2018 13:01

    Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon on Monday shared some notes with the press that he took during his visit to North Korea last month as part of President Moon Jae-in's entourage.

    Park, who is on a trip to three European countries, told reporters in Barcelona, "North Korea is changing a lot more than we think. There's a chance that it will attempt technological innovations we haven't even tried. We should take advantage of that."

    After watching the notorious mass games with Moon in the North Korean capital, Park said, "I thought that we must preserve Pyongyang. It took almost 10,000 people just a few seconds to flip from one scene to the next. This is something you can see only in North Korea."

    When one reporter pointed out that some people feel uncomfortable watching the eerily synchronized display of conformity, Park said, "That's because it's their first time. We should be able to resolve [differences] if we see each other more often."  

    Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon (right) shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang on Sept. 19.

    Park said North Korea's economic potential should not be underestimated, citing China's rapid economic growth and technological innovations like Wechat and Alipay as examples.

    "If North Korea were to focus on developing AI and other areas of the fourth industrial revolution, it has the capacity to follow in the footsteps of advanced countries," he said.

    He added that he told a North Korean official that the North could catch up with China in 20 years. "Look at Ryomyong Street," the official replied, referring to an avenue of relatively glitzy apartment blocks for the elite. "We could do it in 10 years."

    Park also said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's younger sister, Yo-jong, was so popular among South Korean delegates "that many of us volunteered to lead her fan club. She seems to be handling all of the administrative work. I'd worry about North Korea without the siblings."

    During a state dinner in Pyongyang, Park said Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, asked him about his experience living in a small rooftop room this summer in the sweltering heat in a working-class suburb of Seoul to learn first-hand about the difficulties ordinary citizens have.

    Park said it was extremely meaningful that the head of Moon's security sat in the same car as the two leaders during their parade through Pyongyang. "Which leader would he protect in an emergency? This could not happen without trust," he said. "It was a big symbolic incident."

    Park added that he is asked a lot of questions about the North Korean leader's upcoming visit to Seoul. "Some 150,000 North Koreans gathered at a stadium [to welcome President Moon], but we can't do that [in a democratic society] even if we try to," he said. "I'm just concerned about far-right protesters."

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