Mon, Feb 18, 2019 - Page 7 News List

North Korea and Vietnam eye new chapter with Hanoi Trump-Kim summit

The two communist countries fought side-by-side in the Vietnam War, but have become alienated since Hanoi started liberalizing in the 1980s

By Kham Nguyen and Ju-min Park  /  Reuters, HANOI and SEOUL

Relations between Vietnam and North Korea took a dark turn in 2017, when North Korean agents used Vietnamese citizen Doan Thi Huong to carry out the assassination of Kim Jong-nam.

Kim Jong-nam was killed when Huong and Indonesian Siti Aisyah smeared the deadly VX nerve agent on his face.

Both women have pleaded not guilty and told police that they thought they were taking part in a hidden camera TV show.

Pyongyang has denied accusations by South Korean and US officials that Kim Jong-un’s regime was behind the killing.

Both women face the death penalty if convicted.

“She called us before Lunar New Year, asking about our health and for us to pray for her so that she can be freed,” Huong’s father, Doan Van Thanh, said.

“I strongly believe that she will return, and that is also the wish of my family. I hope Kim Jong-un will help Huong to return home as soon as possible,” Thanh said.

Some ties between the old socialist allies remain, and Vietnam’s model of doi moi economic and political reforms from the 1980s and 1990s have been touted as a potential model for North Korea to follow if it wants to re-enter the international fold.

There is also some tourism from Vietnam to North Korea.

Nguyen Thuy, a businesswoman from Hanoi, visited North Korea for one week last November.

“It must be one of the most peaceful places in the world, since it hasn’t received much influence from technology,” Thuy said.

There are two North Korean restaurants in Hanoi, and a kindergarten gifted by Pyongyang that opened in 1978 is popular with North Korean diplomatic staff and locals alike.

“Since its establishment, the kindergarten has always maintained a close relationship with the North Korean Embassy and with the Vietnam-DPRK Friendship Association,” Ngo Thi Minh Ha, head of the Vietnam-DPRK Kindergarten, said as he stood beneath a painting of Kim Il-sung and Ho Chi Minh, the two nations’ founding presidents, shaking hands.

The school has opened two new classrooms named after Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il, the father of current leader Kim Jong-un. North Korea also runs a friendship kindergarten in Pyongyang that has a classroom named after Ho Chi Minh.

“We totally believe [that North Korea will further develop economically], because North Korean people are creative, strong-minded and determined,” Ha said. “We believe our North Korean friends will have their own breakthrough doi moi style reforms in the future.”

Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen, Khanh Vu, Thinh Nguyen and Rozanna Latiff

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