It has been said that distance makes the heart grow fonder. However, with North Korea thousands of miles away from Singapore, for many people, this could not be further from the truth. Here, we explore the political and socio-economic differences that divide North Korea and Singapore and the geographical distance that exists between the two countries.
North Korea and Singapore have a complex relationship. North Korea rarely acknowledges Singapore and vice versa, as there have been no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries since 1990. North Korea’s unpredictable political and military nature, as well as its development of nuclear arms, were cited as the main reason for the lack of diplomatic ties.
The two countries, however, do maintain informal contact for commercial and societal matters. North Korean students are known to attend universities in Singapore, and Singapore companies have invested in North Korea’s economy in the past.
What is true, however, is the distance between North Korea and Singapore. The two countries are separated by thousands of miles, and the two capitals, Pyongyang and Singapore, are 3,764 miles (6,053 kilometers) apart. Considering that flying time from Singapore to either London or New York is only around 13 hours, it’s safe to say that it would take more than double the time to reach Pyongyang.
The wide gap between North Korea and Singapore has aggravated social, economic, and political issues between the two countries. Singapore is a renowned economic powerhouse within Southeast Asia, while North Korea remains one of the world’s most isolated countries. It ranks as one of the lowest in terms of human development, with a poverty rate of more than 80%.
Yet, despite the pessimistic outlook, there remains hope for improvement. Max Chang, a Korean-American working in Singapore, believes that the two countries could benefit from closer ties. He thinks that North Korea could learn from Singapore’s use of technology and foreign direct investment to develop its economy.
Dr. Helen Park from National University of Singapore advocates for this as well. She points out that the idea of North-South exchange is beginning to catch on, fueled by the spirit of collaboration across borders. An example of this is North Korea’s attendance in international forums at the Asian Development Bank.
The economic disparity between the two countries is a great obstacle to cross, but everything is possible with the right approach. Many experts agree that by combining resources and knowledge, the two countries could build stronger bridges than ever before. For now, however, they remain worlds apart.
Politics have long been a major source of tension between North Korea and Singapore. North Korea is known as one of the most oppressive countries in the world, while Singapore has advanced considerably into a technologically savvy and advanced democratic country. Singapore’s joint-venture projects with North Korea have always been viewed with much suspicion by the international community.
The two countries have clashed on issues such as human rights and democracy, leading to strained relations. Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has publicly condemned North Korea for its human rights violations and missile tests. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un views Singapore’s political system and foreign policies as a threat to his own, labeling the country an “imperialist power.”
The fact that North Korea has not taken part in regional meetings, such as the ASEAN Summit, further underlines the differences between the two countries. The lack of diplomatic ties and the divide in beliefs has been a great deterrence to any kind of political cooperation between the two countries.
Economically, there is a vast gap between the two countries. Singapore is a powerhouse in the world economy, while North Korea remains one of the world’s poorest countries. According to the World Bank’s 2019 report, Singapore had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of $59,381, while North Korea’s GDP per capita was only $1,387. This means that North Koreans enjoy less than 3% of the economic benefits that Singaporeans enjoy.
Economic sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United Nations and other countries have only widened this gap. North Korea is unable to participate in global trade, which means that its economy relies heavily on aid from China and other countries in the region. In comparison, Singapore continues to attract investors from around the world, giving the country a major economic advantage.
The distance between North Korea and Singapore has deepened social issues in the region. For years, both countries have banned their citizens from visiting the other, thus preventing any kind of cultural exchange. This serves to further limit the interpersonal relationships between North Koreans and Singaporeans.
The lack of access to information has limited North Koreans to the stories of their own media. This means that they are kept unaware of how people from other countries live, which further adds to their ignorance of the outside world. North Koreans are also not allowed to access international media, including that from Singapore.
Education is another issue where North Korea and Singapore are miles apart. North Korea has a poorly resourced education system, while Singapore is known around the world for its cutting-edge schools and universities. North Korea’s schools tend to teach a one-sided view of history, which is often distorted, while Singapore has a far more open-minded approach to education.
With the lack of access to a world-class education, many North Koreans struggle to acquire the skillset required to make their mark in the international job market. Singapore, on the other hand, continuously tops international rankings for its educational systems, producing some of the most sought-after professionals in the world. In this sense, North Korea’s educational system really is a subsistence system.
Traveling between North Korea and Singapore is not allowed without special permissions. North Korean citizens and students are prohibited from traveling abroad, and Singapore does not allow North Korean citizens to visit their country. Any commercial flights to North Korea must be booked with the approval of the Singaporean government, which makes traveling to North Korea virtually impossible.
It is not only the lack of resources that makes traveling between the two countries difficult. Political tensions have always been a deterrent, and with strained diplomatic ties, it is unlikely that citizens of either country will be able to travel to the other anytime soon.
In the simplest terms, North Korea is geographically and politically far away from Singapore. The distance between both countries is more than mere miles, but rather a reflection of the stark contrasts in living standards, politics, and social issues. Although the divide between the two countries is far from being bridged, there is still hope for a brighter future. Through greater collaboration and understanding, the two countries could start to mend the relationship and create a better future for their citizens.