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Singapore business exec to travel to North Korea

By Elizabeth Shim
Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan greets Kim Jong Un upon his arrival at Changi Airport on June 10. Singapore's business community is taking an interest in the Kim regime. Photo by Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's Foreign Minister Office/UPI
Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan greets Kim Jong Un upon his arrival at Changi Airport on June 10. Singapore's business community is taking an interest in the Kim regime. Photo by Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's Foreign Minister Office/UPI | License Photo

June 20 (UPI) -- A Singaporean business executive says he hopes to "spread goodwill, love and hope" to North Korea after receiving an invitation from Pyongyang to visit and explore investment opportunities.

Michael Heng, a former professor at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University and head of People Worldwide Consulting, told local publication TODAY the invitation came from the Kim Jong Un regime. He plans to visit Sept. 18-22.

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Heng, who reportedly has ties to the North Korean embassy in Singapore, described the planned trip as "almost like a tour to North Korea" and is part of larger efforts to engage Singapore's business community.

VNT Global Consulting, a Singapore firm that has expressed interest in joining the trip, described it as a "very good opportunity."

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The report comes at a time when North Korea remains under heavy international sanctions.

In 2015, Singapore was Pyongyang's sixth-largest trading partner, with two-way trade surpassing $29 million.

The trip would help North Korea earn foreign currency -- each traveler would have to pay North Korean services about $3,600 if traveling from Singapore, and about $3,300 if leaving from Beijing.

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Costs cover all transportation and accommodation.

North Korea has been seeking tourism dollars, and engagement in 2018 is raising the interest of Japanese travelers, according to a travel agency in Tokyo.

The company, which specializes in North Korea travel, said it has received applications from 96 people interested in traveling to the state in 2018.

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That number is significantly higher than the number of total travelers in either 2016 or 2017. Each year about 50 people traveled to North Korea from Japan, Yonhap reported Wednesday.

One unidentified university student in Tokyo told Yonhap he traveled for four days and three nights. He takes an interest in North Korean popular music and went, although he knew conversations with North Koreans would be restricted.

A total of 120 people in 2018 have expressed interest in group tours leaving from Japan, according to the report.

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