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No sign of Kim at St Regis, while a Japanese tourist sold North Korean souvenirs outside

SINGAPORE — Offering an assortment of North Korean publications, memorabilia like pins as well as American and North Korean mini flags, a Japanese bookstore owner "set up shop" at Tanglin Place on Monday (June 11).

Mr Miyagawa Jun showcasing the North Korean products that he has for sale outside the St Regis Hotel, where North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is staying at, ahead of a historic summit between Mr Kim, and US President Donald Trump.

Mr Miyagawa Jun showcasing the North Korean products that he has for sale outside the St Regis Hotel, where North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is staying at, ahead of a historic summit between Mr Kim, and US President Donald Trump.

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SINGAPORE — Offering an assortment of North Korean publications, memorabilia like pins as well as American and North Korean mini flags, a Japanese bookstore owner "set up shop" at Tanglin Place on Monday (June 11).

Selling his wares near St Regis hotel around noon, where North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his delegation are staying, Mr Jun Miyagawa told TODAY he had flown in on Sunday for a three-day visit. He hopes the high-stakes summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Tuesday will "turn out a success".

The 63-year-old Japanese, whose bookstore is located in the Kochi Prefecture, had booked a room at Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa, and is looking forward for a chance to see both leaders in the flesh.

The Korean history buff, who had set up his specialty bookshop called Rainbow Trading Company in 1992, said the "North Korea fan mania" back home had helped stoke up interest in his business. "They are not interested (politically), but they (like things related to) North Korea, said Mr Miyagawa, who had visited the hermit kingdom 18 times and even doubled up as a tour guide there.

However, from a high of 5,000 books imported from North Korea monthly, the restrictions imposed on the import of North Korean goods into Japan had seen his supply dwindle to about just 100 publications monthly. He claimed to have sold copies of North Korean phone books and confidential documents — which go up to a whopping US$2,000 (S$2,670) to US$6,000 — but was "later banned from entering the country".

Some of the items Mr Miyagawa had sold. Photo: Chng Shao Kai/TODAY

Among the members of public drawn to the unusual merchandise, which included Pyongyang guidebooks and humour-related books in Korean, was a retiree who gave his name only as Mr Tan. The 60-year-old, who was walking around the Orchard-Tanglin area, said he was collecting souvenirs related to the summit and soaking up this "once in a lifetime moment".

Mr Tan bought a pin of a US flag from Mr Miyagawa, which will add to his current collection of a takeaway paper cup from the Ya Kun Kaya toast chain that had the words "Trump-Kim Summit" on it.

Gesturing to his cup, Mr Tan said, "Isn't that cool? It's limited edition ... This is once in a lifetime and it will never happen again ... The two giants are coming together, and it's really amazing."

Mr Miyagawa's sales, however, came to an end around 1pm when police officers in plain clothes turned up. Although he was not told to leave, he packed up on his own accord after he had his identification and merchandise inspected.

Over at St Regis hotel, security was tight, with an X-ray machine and metal detector at the entrance to inspect any member of the public seeking entry.

Groups of watchful and stern-looking North Korean bodyguards could also been observed keeping watch in the hotel lobby, while members of Certis Cisco and the Singapore Police Force stood around the lift lobby facing curious onlookers who had turned up at the hotel for a glimpse of Mr Kim. TODAY overheard a hotel guest telling a hotel staff member that it was a "scary" experience.

Despite the flurry of activity throughout the day, where large groups of North Korean personnel, including bodyguards, could be seen leaving and returning to the hotel, there was no sign of the elusive Mr Kim.

A woman who declined to be named, who was with her husband at the hotel lobby, said: "We saw the police there (at Orchard) and it felt like some special occasion, so we decided to come to St Regis for a cup of coffee."

She knew that Mr Kim was staying at the hotel, andwas eagerly awaiting his appearance. Though he did not emerge, she said that "it feels good, and seeing the bodyguards was special for me".

Commenting on the experience, the woman told TODAY: "It was something historical, like a spy movie."

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