Willem van der Bijl, a Dutch tourist who went missing in Pyongyang in July, then had a pro-North Korean government op-ed published in his name last week, has returned to the Netherlands and told reporters communist authorities detained him.
RTV Utrecht, van der Bijl's hometown news station, reported Sunday that the 59-year-old stamp shop owner had been forced to sign a confession before being allowed to leave North Korea.
Van der Bijl flew to North Korea to purchase stamps and paintings, but failed to make his July 30 flight home according to BNO News. On August 10, the website of the Pyonyang Times ran a short item by van der Bijl praising the country's democratic election process.
"The popular election system of the DPRK is really excellent," read the piece. "What I'd like to say more is that whenever I visit the country I can see more and more modern structures rising here and there. And I realize the developing reality of the country."
The article, which was illustrated with a photo of a tie-wearing, but shabbily hirsuit van der Bijl, was credited to "Wim van der Bijl, director of the art building material company of the Netherlands," which seemed far off enough to discredit the already unbelievable story that anyone was impressed by North Korean democracy.
North Korea has been gradually opening to tourists: The government is discussing a controversial resort project with South Korea and even attempting to bring in American tourists. Concerns remain — to put it mildly.
The autocratic government run by Kim Jong-Il is notoriously cantankerous and has proved itself more than willing to play diplomatic games with foreign nationals, which means visits to the "Hermit Kingdom" always have the potential to get exciting in a hurry.
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