Saturday, 11 Jul 2020

Seoul Mayor keen to show Kim train station, Han River

If Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon were to be the tour guide for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his upcoming visit, he would show Mr Kim the city’s longest river and main train station.

Mr Park, responding to a question by The Straits Times at his New Year’s address to foreign media yesterday, said the North Korean leader told him that he is keen to cooperate with the South on improving the water quality of the main Taedong River that runs through Pyongyang.

The two men met last September, when Mr Park was part of the entourage that travelled to Pyongyang with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Mr Park said he would like to take Mr Kim to the Han River, which runs through the heart of Seoul, and show him the river’s scenic views and water filtration plant, “where we produce world-class tap water”.

Seoul Station, he added, is also top on the itinerary because it would be the beginning and the end of a planned rail project to link the two Koreas and connect to Eurasia by land.

Overlooking the station is an overpass-turned-sky-park called Seoullo, an urban revitalisation project conceived by Mr Park.

“There’s so much for me to show Chairman Kim… It could take days,” said the 62-year-old mayor, who is serving his third term.

“I can also introduce delicious food to him and take him to some secret places people don’t know about, like my favourite haunts.”

However, Mr Park was also quick to point out that inter-Korea projects can proceed only with the easing of economic sanctions on the North, a move that he said is largely dependent on the outcome of Mr Kim’s upcoming second summit with US President Donald Trump.

The two leaders first met in Singapore last June and inked an agreement to work towards “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula. Mr Kim was also spotted visiting Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay, as well as strolling on Jubilee Bridge.

The North Korean leader is slated to make a trip to Seoul after he meets Mr Trump again by the end of next month. This would make him the first Kim dynasty leader to visit Seoul. Mr Kim accepted Mr Moon’s invitation last September to visit the South’s capital city.

But while some people are happy to welcome Mr Kim in a sign of warming ties, others – especially conservatives who view the North as an enemy – are expected to stage demonstrations against the third-generation leader, who assumed power in 2011 after his father’s death. Small to large-scale protests are commonly held in democratic South Korea.

Mr Park said Seoul city will work closely with the central government to “make sure that the historic visit is safely and successfully held”.

Asked if he will impose restrictions on anti-Kim protests, Mr Park said it is up to the police to decide.

“The police department is the one that gives approval for demonstrations, and the decision will be made according to law,” he added.

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