The mystery man photographed riding a roller-coaster with Kim Jong Un last week was Barnaby Jones, a junior staff member from the British embassy, government sources confirmed today.
Jones turned heads when state media released photos of him riding one seat ahead of North Korea’s leader at the People’s Pleasure Palace, a new amusement park in Pyongyang.
The photos were surprising to some because showing Kim enjoying himself with foreign officials is in stark contrast to the authoritarian image his father and grandfather portrayed.
Not only that, but the westerner was an unknown and he was in such close proximity to North Korea’s supreme leader.
According to The Washington Post, North Korean media said Kim and his wife “shook hands with the diplomatic envoys ... as they extended warm congratulations and best wishes, and talked with them in an amicable and friendly atmosphere.”
It also reinforces Britain’s strategy when dealing with the totalitarian regime; England is one of the only western nations to have an embassy in North Korea.
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As for Jones, he is Britain’s charge d’affaires, The Guardian reported.
The British Foreign Office suggested he was simply responding to a party invite.
“Pyongyang’s diplomatic community was invited to the opening of the Rungna People’s Pleasure Ground,” an official statement said. “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.”
Evidently, Kim loves amusement park rides, Mother Jones magazine said.
He has personally stamped three of his favorite rides at the Kaeson Fun Fair after trying them all.
Showing their new leader in a positive light is fascinating to longtime North Korea observer Charles K. Armstrong.
“He likes to have fun. He has a beautiful wife. He is on the one hand an omniscient leader but in some respects an ordinary person,” Armstrong told Mother Jones. “He actually seems to like interacting with people.”
Armstrong is director of the Center for Korean Research at Columbia University.
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