Swedish ambassador takes yoga to the streets of Pyongyang, Latest World News - The New Paper

Swedish ambassador takes yoga to the streets of Pyongyang

This article is more than 12 months old

SEOUL As a barefoot Caucasian doing yoga near some of Pyongyang's iconic landmarks, Swedish Ambassador Joachim Bergstrom makes an unlikely sight in the North Korean capital.

One of the few Western diplomats who has not evacuated from North Korea amid coronavirus restrictions, Mr Bergstrom has relied on yoga to endure the deepening sense of isolation.


Mr Bergstrom, who has been in North Korea as an ambassador since last September, came prepared to use the exercise regimen as a way to stay healthy and unwind in a country where foreigners and residents are under constant restraints.

But the sense of isolation deepened when the coronavirus began to spread in neighbouring China in January.

This then prompted North Korea to shut its borders, cancel most flights and train services, and send foreign residents into more than a month of quarantine.

Several foreign delegations arranged to temporarily leave, but Mr Bergstrom has stayed on, and teaches occasional yoga classes to a dwindling number of international diplomats and aid workers.

Occasionally, Mr Bergstrom rides his bicycle and practices yoga in parks or other public spots, often prompting smiles and stares from residents.

"Some get bewildered looks when I go upside down in head-stand," he told Reuters by messaging app from Pyongyang.

"Connecting - even peripherally - through folks smiling or talking about my yoga practice among themselves has been a very rewarding experience."