Missing Dutchman in N. Korean newspaper

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

The state-owned North Korean newspaper Pyongyang Times carries an interview with missing Dutch stamp trader Willem van der Bijl. The Dutchman expresses approval of the elections held in late July and there is a photograph of him. Nothing is said, however, about the fact that has not been heard of for three weeks.

His business partner, who raised the alarm when Van der Bijl failed to catch their flight back home, does not believe the newspaper report is a sign of life.

"The interview was published on 6 August, but it could well be older. It's not even certain that they actually spoke to him."

The state news agency KCNA reported on 25 July that the Dutchman had visited a polling station.

Willem van der Bijl runs a stamp shop in Utrecht and has visited North Korea dozens of times in search of postage stamps.

North Korea expert Remco Breuker of the University of Leiden believes the newspaper report is a good sign. It indicates that the authorities do not regard him as an undesirable alien.

"I think they know roughly where he is but they can't reach him. They would never admit that North Korea's internal communication systems sometimes fail."


© Radio Netherlands Worldwide