Kim Jong-un’s ‘bitter sorrow’ over North Korea coach crash that killed 32 Chinese tourists
North Korean leader says his people ‘take the tragic accident as their own misfortune’
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his “bitter sorrow” after dozens of Chinese tourists were killed when a coach they were travelling in plunged off a bridge.
Thirty-two Chinese tourists and four North Koreans perished in the accident in North Hwanghae province, south of the capital Pyongyang, on Sunday night, Chinese officials and state media said. Two other Chinese nationals were injured.
In a rare admission of negative news from North Korea’s tightly controlled propaganda network, the state-run KCNA news agency ran a report early on Tuesday saying that Kim met the Chinese ambassador in Pyongyang and later visited crash survivors in hospital.
“[Kim] said that the unexpected accident brought bitter sorrow to his heart and that he couldn’t control his grief at the thought of the bereaved families who lost their blood relatives,” KCNA reported.
The agency quoted the North Korean leader as saying his people “take the tragic accident as their own misfortune”.
Chinese ambassador to North Korea Li Jinjun said Chinese President Xi Jinping and the families of the crash victims would be notified of Kim’s visit, while promising close cooperation with North Korean officials regarding the accident, the central news agency reported.
Kim also visited the hospital where the injured were being treated, the report said, adding that he “personally learned about the treatment of the wounded”.
The North Korean leader was quoted as saying the North’s party and government would take follow-up measures over the accident “with utmost sincerity ... to alleviate the pain of the bereaved families even a bit”.
On Monday, Xi urged China’s foreign ministry and embassy in North Korea to take “all necessary means” to handle the accident, and called for an “all-out” effort to help the injured and deal with the deceased, according to Xinhua.
China’s foreign ministry said a medical team and diplomats were sent to help, and described the North Korean casualties as “workers”.
All visitors to North Korea must be accompanied by minders.
Xinhua news agency reported that the bus had fallen from a bridge in North Hwanghae province.
China’s state broadcaster showed images of a large overturned vehicle, with light rain falling on rescue vehicles at night and doctors attending to a patient.
KCNA said the crash was “an unexpected traffic accident that claimed heavy casualties among Chinese tourists”. It gave no breakdown on the numbers killed or injured.
Chinese tourists make up about 80 per cent of all foreign visitors to North Korea, according to a South Korean think tank, the Korea Maritime Institute, which estimates that tourism generates annual revenue of about 277.6 million yuan (US$44 million) for the isolated country.
Bilateral ties between the North and China showed signs of warming after Kim Jong-un made a surprise visit to Beijing in March, during which he met Xi and pledged to work towards denuclearising the Korean peninsula.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Associated Press