by Augustine Low
Let Singapore be a good host for the Trump-Kim summit. Let’s give peace a chance. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Fresh from his return from North Korean capital Pyongyang, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan declared that he was “very impressed” with the country.
“Clearly, the government has been hard at work all these decades to upgrade their infrastructure . . . so the society itself is a very impressive society and a city in its own right,” said the Minister.
But a CNN Fareed Zakaria Special shown this morning (8am, 11 June), “The Two Faces of Kim Jong Un,” talked about how the North Koreans mislead visitors into thinking that Pyongyang is like the rest of the country when in fact the majority of its people are starving, where food is rationed and electricity is in short supply.
The Minister was only seeing one face of North Korea.
The short answer to why dictator Kim Jong Un is opening up to the world, says Fareed Zakaria, is that he “is running out of money.”
A recent BBC report dated 1 May 2018 concluded with this paragraph: “Decades of this rigid state-controlled system have led to stagnation and a leadership dependent on the cult of personality. The totalitarian state also stands accused of systematic human rights abuses.”
So let’s not try and sweep everything under the carpet and start heaping praise on a country that for decades has been known as a hermit kingdom – a country which walls itself off from the rest of the world and is famous for its systematic human rights abuses.
The Trump-Kim summit is a step in the right direction. The Singapore government has bragging rights for hosting it, deeming it a privilege and an honour.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that it is not just a whole-of-government effort but a “whole of Singapore effort.”
Makes no bones about it – it is purely a government initiative, for which $20 million is being spent.
It should not be taken as people’s initiative, and the hosting of a peace summit must not become a movement to shore up national pride.
Augustine Low is a proud but concerned citizen. Voicing independent, unplugged opinion is his contribution to citizen engagement.