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Swedish ambassador, one of the first to  met with Kim Jong-Un

Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Swedish ambassador to North Korea is one of the first Western representatives to meet the country's new leader, Kim Jong Un.

The Swedish presence on the Korean peninsula is highlighted by analysts as politically important.
It  is a clear and icy cold December and Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad has just returned from the border station between North and South Korea, where Sweden has had an outpost to monitor the cease-fire since 1953.

“Situation is quiet at the border. We see no troop movements. But I understand that people are worried. South Korea has been under threat and provocation for almost 60 years,” he said according to Swedish news network TT.


Dressed in green army uniforms, he certainly stands out in the crowd in downtown Seoul. But the population is accustomed to military presence, he explains.

“When the older South Koreans see the Swedish label on their uniforms, they often, shakes hands and thanks Sweden for the efforts in the field of hospitals during the war, he says, explaining that Sweden today has a strong diplomatic position on the Korean peninsula.

Sweden was until 2001 was the only EU country with an Embassy in North Korean capital Pyongyang and is today one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid. Sweden is also assisting the U.S. in consular affairs.

Barbro Elm, the Swedish ambassador in Pyongyang, on Tuesday was among the first Westerners who got to meet the country's new leader, Kim Jong Un.

Along with seven other ambassadors from the EU, she was invited to a ceremony at the memorial palace Kumsusan, where the deceased leader Kim Jong-Il is in a glass coffin.

"All diplomatic representatives on site greeted Kim Jong-Un at the ceremony, "writes Barbro Elm in an email to TT without further wanting to take further comment on the situation in the country.
Victor Teo, assistant professor of international relations at Hong Kong University, also underlines the fact that Sweden has a significant role in the region.

“Sweden is seen today as an important mediator between North Korea and the West,” he says.
Ulf Sörmark, second in command at the embassy in Seoul, do not want to overstate Sweden's diplomatic role and points out that much is synchronized via the EU. But he points out that Sweden's visible presence, with embassies in both North and South and surveillance at the border, is "unique".
By Team

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