[Video] Hanoi welcomes US, N. Korean leaders

By Jo He-rim

North Korean waitresses smile when asked a bout Kim’s visit; kindergarteners prepare performance for 'supreme leader'

  • Published : Feb 26, 2019 - 20:54
  • Updated : Feb 27, 2019 - 21:34

HANOI, Vietnam -- Hosting the second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Hanoi bustled with both excitement and tension as it welcomed the two leaders Tuesday.

From US and North Korean flags hung on the streets to shops selling T-shirts featuring the faces of Trump and Kim, the city has been busy preparing for the summit. 

As Kim got off from the train from Pyongyang at Dong Dang Station in Vietnam in the morning, security was tightened and roads were blocked in areas where Kim was to pass through. Hundreds of onlooker -- some waving US and Vietnamese flags, and many more holding up smartphones to capture the spectacle -- lined the streets as Kim’s motorcade drove into the city. 

(Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)
(Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

The usual morning traffic in the city reached its peak with cars and motorcycles in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Cyclists wearing uniforms and carrying signs promoting the US-North Korea summit could be seen riding in the midst of a swarm of motorcycles.

Over 2,600 reporters descended on Hanoi to cover the second US-North Korea summit, with the International Media Center set up at the Vietnam-Soviet Friendship Labor Cultural Palace. But with so little revealed about the itinerary of the communist leader, reporters from around the world have spread out around the city, standing near hotels and venues that Kim was likely to visit.

Pyongyang Restaurant

Lunch time at the Pyongyang Restaurant in Hanoi, operated by the North Korean government, was not too busy on Tuesday. The dining hall was filled with eight teams of guests More than half of the guests were from South Korea. One of the servers told The Korea Herald that this was the usual crowd size.

The four-story restaurant has a cafe on the first floor and a dining place for Korean meals on the second floor. The third floor serves bulgogi, a Korean meat dish. The fourth floor is a banquet room.

Guests dine at Pyongyang Restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam, Tuesday. (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

North Korean staff in uniforms greeted and explained about the food and the restaurant in Korean. But they only smiled when asked about the summit and their leader Kim Jong-un.

The restaurant has been used by the North Korean regime to earn foreign currency. According to a study by the Center for Advanced Defense Studies based in Washington, about 125 North Korea restaurants were operating in 14 countries in August 2018, with about 80 of them are in China.

Vietnam-DPRK Friendship Kindergarten

The visit of the North Korean leader also triggered excitement at the Vietnam-DPRK Friendship Kindergarten.

Wearing traditional outfits of Korea and Vietnam -- hanbok and ao dai -- children around the ages of 3 to 5 at the institute practiced a Korean children’s song and waved the flags of the two countries Tuesday, as they prepared to perform -- should Kim visit.

(Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)
Children in traditional costumes sing and wave North Korean and Vietnamese flags at Vietnam-DPRK Friendship Kindergarten in Hanoi, Vietnam, Tuesday. (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

Ngo Thi Minh Ha, the kindergarten principal, said they have conveyed their wish for Kim’s visit to the North Korean Embassy.

Students of Kim Il-sung Class were conducting activities in English with an English-speaking instructor when The Korea Herald visited in the afternoon.

In front of the photographs of former Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh and Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea, the children laughed and jumped in excitement as the teacher called out, “Everyone, one more time. One, two, three, go!”

Since its establishment in 1978, the kindergarten has been a symbol of friendship between Vietnam and North Korea. It was set up with donations from North Korea during the time when Hanoi suffered conflicts and received aid from the North.

According to the principal, there are currently 470 children attending the institute, and 70 faculty members, all of them Vietnamese. Foreign children from countries such as Russia, the United States, Bangladesh and the Netherlands also attend the kindergarten. The institute had one North Korean student who entered in 2015 and graduated two years later.

“The kindergarten has been operating for 41 years, and the parents are not so concerned that the institute is related to North Korea,” Ngo told The Korea Herald, adding that they do not teach North Korean ideologies.

By Jo He-rim (