Elusive Kim makes photojournalists’ job tough in Singapore
UNTIL the end of his first-ever meeting with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday, journalists and photographers struggled to capture images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose movements are often shrouded in mystery.
But on the eve of the historic summit, Kim, one of the world’s most secretive leaders, suddenly appeared in public at the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, giving scores of people a rare chance to take photos of him with their cameras and smartphones.
When Kim landed at about 2:30 pm, Sunday, Singapore time at Changi airport and was en route to his hotel, photographers were not able to snap pictures of the leader as they were banned from entering the tarmac and Kim took off in a car with dark tinted windows.
Most journalists confirmed Kim’s arrival at the airport via a Twitter message posted by Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan with an image of them shaking hands at the foot of an airplane boarding ramp.
At the St. Regis hotel where Kim stayed, two Kyodo News reporters managed to spot the leader in the lobby at around 3:40 p.m., but they were prohibited from photo-taking as strict security was in place.
It was not until Monday evening that the international media learned that Kim might make a late night sightseeing excursion to the waterfront Merlion Park. Some reporters rushed with their cameras to the site where security had already been ramped up.
Others, sensing another possibility, headed to the Marina Bay Sands hotel, known for the panoramic views from the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck on its 57th floor and for its infinity swimming pool.
Reporters arrived at the hotel’s lobby to find many tourists and others gathered there in anticipation of a VIP’s appearance.
“Who will come here? A celebrity?,” a tourist from a Western country was heard asking his friends.
“Nobody cannot go up to the pool and bar because of maintenance,” a hotel worker said.
“I read a Straits Times story reporting that Kim Jong Un will come here,” a Malaysian female tourist in her 40s told Kyodo News excitedly, referring to Singapore’s major English-language daily.
One of the guests at the hotel said he rushed downstairs wearing only a bathrobe, after hearing of a commotion in the lobby.
Around 9:50 p.m., Kim, clad in a black Mao-style suit and surrounded by bodyguards, emerged from a car and entered the hotel’s Tower 3, which has an elevator linked to the SkyPark. The lobby erupted with applause and shouts.
Many tourists, including one who used a selfie stick, as well as journalists and photographers, easily succeeded in taking photos and videos of the elusive North Korean leader with their cameras and smartphones.
“Was that really Kim Jong Un? I was really lucky to be here,” a Chinese female tourist said, adding, “I am wondering if he was not worried about an attack or assassination.”
A Japanese journalist, meanwhile, said, “I wanted to photograph Kim at a place where nobody is.”
Around 20 minutes later, Kim came downstairs and got straight into a car. Afterward, he walked on a bridge near Merlion Park.
“Kim said Singapore is clean and beautiful and every building is stylish as he heard of in the past, adding he is going to learn a lot from the good knowledge and experience of Singapore in various fields in the future,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) visits the Marina Bay Sands hotel, a popular tourist spot in Singapore on Monday.