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British Korea ambassador in 'diplomatic' blog shock

Children salute Kim Jong Il's courage, indefatigability

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Her Majesty's Ambassador to North Korea, Peter Hughes, is under fire for a blog posting he made which appeared to some as a whitewash job for the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il.

The post, made on the blog of South Korea ambassador Martin Uden, painted a bucolic Darling Buds of May description of Pyongyang on election day.

Hughes wrote:

Outside the central polling stations there were bands playing and people dancing and singing to entertain the queues of voters waiting patiently to select their representatives in the country's unicameral olegislature. The booths selling drinks and snacks were very popular with the crowds and everyone seemed to be having a good time. The list of successful candidates was published on Monday. There was a reported turn-out of over 99% of the voters and all the candidates, including Kim Jong Il, were elected with 100% approval.

Hughes said the city of Pyongyang had returned to normal since the elections on Sunday and sunny weather continued. "During the afternoons, long columns of schoolchildren can be seen marching through the streets in their blue uniforms with red neckerchiefs, carrying red banners and flags," he blogged. "The children sing songs and chant slogans as they either walk gaily hand in hand, or march solemnly by."

Hughes also noted people sowing vegetable and herb seeds in small plots around apartment blocks.

Commenters to the blog complained that Hughes's posting sounded more like a press release than an objective view of life in North Korea. But he rejected the complaint, saying he was just trying to show that Pyongyang was in many ways a normal city despite its difficulties.

Hughes went on:

The children marching in columns through the city in their uniforms would not have been singing nursery rhymes, they would have been singing songs about such things as engaging fully in the 'ardent march', and their chants would have been political slogans. The preparations for planting food in plots of land around apartment buildings are a stark reminder that DPRK agricultural policies have resulted in chronic food shortages and the population never have enough to eat. They grow food on every available piece of land as a necessity not a hobby.

His final comment regretted that he did not blog from North Korea because "the technology to set one up is not available to us here".

The blog is here. ®

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