If you’re heading to the 2018 winter Olympics, make sure you get your Korea right, especially if you’re a Kenyan who sees no difference between Pyongyang and Pyeongchang.
Daniel Olomae Ole Sapit, a Kenyan Maasai, learnt the hard way that Pyeongchang is not in North Korea.
The 42-year-old representative for indigenous cow herders, was registered to attend a United Nations conference on biodiversity in Pyeongchang, a ski resort just south of the heavily fortified border that separates the authoritarian North from the capitalist South. Instead, Mr. Sapit ended up in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
After several anxious hours struggling to explain the mix-up to North Korean immigration officials, Mr. Sapit was escorted on a flight back to China—and on to South Korea.
“Pyongyang and Pyeongchang,” Mr. Sapit recalls. “For an African, who can tell the difference?”
Sapit was allowed to leave North Korea and board the correct flight only after he signed a North Korean document admitting to violating laws, being detained for several hours, and paying for a new ticket and a fine of $500 for entering North Korea without a visa.
The Kenyan said he did not suspect anything wrong, even after boarding an Air China flight to Pyongyang, North Korea.
When he glanced out the plane window as he descended, however, the view below struck him as odd.
“It seemed to me a very underdeveloped country,” said Sapit, who was expecting to see the urbanized and industrialized cityscape of South Korea.
After landing at North Korea’s Sunan International Airport, where he saw hundreds of soldiers and portraits of North Korea leaders, he knew he had made a mistake.
A mistake that is expected to be repeated by many as South Korea hosts the 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Additional reporting by The Wall Street journal