Sunday, August 14, 2011

Missing stamp dealer praises 'democratic' North Korea

Missing stamp dealer praises 'democratic' North Korea*

By David McNeill

Friday, 12 August 2011

The mystery over a Dutch stamp dealer who went missing while travelling in North Korea deepened this week after he appeared in a state-run newspaper praising the country's democratic traditions.

Willem van der Bijl, who failed to catch a flight home from a business trip to Pyongyang on 30 July, is quoted in an interview on 6 August with the Pyongyang Times saying he is impressed with the North's "excellent" popular election system.

"In the DPRK every citizen is eligible to vote and to be elected," says the 59-year-old. "Whenever I visit the country I can see more and more modern structures rising here and there. And I realise the developing reality of the country."

While the North's citizens are technically entitled to vote against approved candidates in local elections, doing so would almost certainly result in arrest and detention.

A regular traveller to the country, Mr Van der Bijl arrived in Pyongyang on 17 July, according to the Dutch broadcaster RTV Utrecht. His family has reported him missing but the Netherlands' government has no formal relations with North Korea and is struggling to locate him.

The Dutchman is also quoted as saying he will return to the country next year "to join the Korean people commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung".

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