Three days with the North Koreans: awkward glances and a scant smile

SINGAPORE- Wednesday, June 13, 2018-After the successful end of the second night of stay in the opulent, Singapore hotel as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a member of his security staff sat beside a reporter in the lobby and smiled.

Kim’s unexpected visit to some of Singapore’s tourist sights on Monday night, where he was snapped by local revelers smiling atop the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, was a sign of a dramatic makeover for the long-isolated leader, who only several months ago traded threats of a nuclear war with Trump.

The guard pushed out his hand, waved it in front of her face, and then, despite it being indoors and night time, produced a pair of sunglasses, cleaned them and put them on. The Reuters reporters assembled at the St. Regis constantly found themselves under the watchful eyes of North Korean security guards, hotel staff and Singapore police, whose job it was to make sure that journalists did not get close to the North Korean leadership, especially Kim himself. It was a fleeting moment of warmth from the throngs of Kim’s bodyguards, who stalked the St. Regis hotel day and night with an intense gaze, declining to make eye contact with hundreds of journalists, guests and bar patrons gathered to snap a quick peek of the reclusive leader.

Capturing of the Photos totally banned. In the only exception was for about a dozen North Korean state media workers who traveled with Kim from Pyongyang. They were only allowed to take pictures and work within the cordon. Phones and cameras were totally banned, and the devices of anyone seen taking photos were snatched up and pictures were being deleted.

On Tuesday, the reporters saw a hotel guest taking a selfie with a North Korean security guard in the background. He got very angry with the situation and called the Singapore police officers, who requested the guests to delete the photos clicked. A group of reporters managed to strike up of a stilted conversation in English with a North Korean woman, while they waited for the elevator. She declined to comment on her travel plans or expectations for the summit. The reporter felt sorry about saying that if it had put her in an awkward spot, “It’s ok, it’s my prerogative to talk to you”.

by Sawan Kumar on June 13, 2018

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