This July, we were glad to have an amazing ASEAN (Southeast Asia) delegation join us in DPR Korea. This group was led by George Yeo, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade & Industry, Health and Information, Communications and the Arts for Singapore. George last visited Korea in 2011 as Foreign Minister and was keen to return with his wife to see how the country has changed.
George Yeo was to join us for our August Pyongyang Urban Innovation Week as a volunteer at Choson Exchange’s workshops. Due to scheduling conflict with Singapore’s National Day, we visited a week earlier. The delegation included business leaders from Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore and Cambodia. The purpose of this trip was to sightsee, learn more about the current situation in the country, and to engage with students and professors in educational exchange and discussions.
We were glad to have over 100 professors and students from International Relations departments at Kim Il Sung University, Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies and the newly re-opened Academy of International Relations join us for a wide-ranging dialogue with our panelists on topics ranging from good governance and difficult policy decisions to negotiations, corruption, philanthropy and logistics. The only disappointment everyone had was the lack of time to dig deeper into the many interesting questions raised by the students – who were not shy about engaging the speakers. We hosted a dinner reunion for years of Korean Choson Exchange program alumni who joined our programs in Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Switzerland.
We also had the privilege on this trip to meet with the British, Cambodian and Chinese Ambassadors to the DPRK, who shared with us their knowledge of the country. The Indonesian Ambassador later met our colleague Calvin the week after during our Pyongyang Urban Innovation Week.
On the way out, the Korean customs officer asked me what I thought about US-DPRK relations. I told him I hope both sides will reach a quick, peaceful and mutually beneficial resolution.