A rare photograph showing a smiling Kim Jong-un riding the rollercoaster made the rounds in newsrooms earlier this month. What was most surprising to see was the foreigner, strapped in ‘close proximity’ to the North Korean leader.
The British embassy has now confirmed that it was one of its junior officials in the photo. Barnaby Jones, the British Charge d’affaires had been invited to the opening of the Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang, where Kim was also seen with his wife. The group seemed to be enjoying the ride in the photo which will be added to Kim’s ‘youthful and upbeat’ collage.
The photo underlines Kim’s leadership style being in contrast to his late father’s militarism. The leader has often been seen in public along with his wife, visiting places such as the zoo and concerts. Kim is also trying to promote a North Korea that could accommodate ‘outsiders’ or foreigners.
While the UK is one of the few western countries to have an embassy in the rogue state, its diplomatic relations with the country have not been cordial in recent years. North Korea had sneered at the UK for its close relationship with the US but the photograph could illustrate a change in that attitude. “While this was an unusual event, it is vital that we actively engage with the North Korean administration since we work closely with them on a number of humanitarian, cultural and education projects which benefit the people of North Korea,” Britain’s Foreign office stated.