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Singapore feels pressure ahead of summit

by
June 09, 2018

Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump impersonators front the media and curious passersby in Singapore.

The small island nation of Singapore, which prides itself on law and order, is feeling the pressure of more than 3,000 members of the press arriving for a historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The heavy media presence along with stringent security measures for Tuesday's historic summit has added to the frenzy unusual for the laid-back tropical state.

For over a week, journalists have been staking out Singapore's luxury hotels, airports and government buildings to catch a glimpse of officials involved in summit preparations.

Unruly ones have already crossed red lines.

Police said on Friday they arrested two South Korean journalists from the national broadcaster KBS suspected of trespassing in the residence of the North Korean ambassador.

Another KBS journalist and an interpreter were also under investigation.

Responding to the arrests, South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom urged journalists from his country, where the free-wheeling press is a norm, to behave. He reminded them that Singapore exercises "very strict government power," which may not bend to diplomatic pleas.

KBS apologised for the incident in their Friday evening newscast.

The city-state is not used to a rowdy press.

Most of the mainstream media are controlled by government-linked companies and independent news websites are wary of strict defamation laws that government leaders have used to silence critics.

Apart from journalists, authorities also have to contend with Kim and Trump impersonators.

On Friday, Australian comedian and Kim impersonator Lee Howard Ho Wun was questioned by police when he arrived at Singapore's Changi Airport. Lee, who also uses the name Howard X, said he was told to stay away from Sentosa Island, where the summit will be held, and around Shangri-La Hotel, where Trump is expected to stay.

Lee said the police asked if he had been involved in protests around the world, including those by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, where he lives.

"I've never encountered this at any other country. I guess they could have deported me, but then the headline the next day would read 'Kim Jong Un gets deported from Singapore,' which I'm sure they wouldn't want," Lee said.

Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said that all travellers could be subjected to additional interviews and checks.

Lee was spotted at Merlion Park, a popular tourist spot, with Trump impersonator Dennis Alan later on Friday. They were mobbed by passers-by and a group of around 25 journalists.

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