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Securing the Summit: A Showcase of the Home Team Spirit
Behind the scenes at the DPRK-USA Singapore Summit with Inspector (NS) Gim Joo Hyung of the Singapore Police Force and Warrant Officer 1 Zulkasyfi Bin Yunos of the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

Forging a New Connection 
Before the DPRK-USA Singapore Summit, the extent of Inspector (Insp) NS Gim Joo Hyung’s experience as a translator had been “describing K-dramas and variety shows” to his friends. 

Now, not only has the 25-year-old undergraduate sharpened his proficiency in Korean, he also received invitations to visit North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang to eat naengmyeon or cold noodles, a popular local dish. 

21 June 2018 SIngapore Summit Insp Gim
Insp (NS) Gim Joo Hyung had no experience in translation prior to the Summit, but rose to the occasion to play his part. PHOTO: Desmond Ang

It all started a week before the Summit, when the Police Coast Guard National Serviceman received a call from his reservist unit. He was recalled to serve as a translator for the Singapore Police Force (SPF)

Despite being a native Korean speaker, Insp (NS) Gim still found it a challenge. “It’s like Teochew and Hokkien; the North and South versions of Korean are very similar – almost 99% similar – except for the accent, and the fact that North Koreans speak faster,” he said. “Also, some words that South Koreans don’t use much, North Koreans use more commonly, like ‘comrade.’ Then there were the more technical words that we don’t really use in daily life. I didn’t know how to say ‘convoy’, or reference each car in a convoy, for example.” 

Insp (NS) Gim eventually figured these out by consulting his Korean mother and speaking with North Koreans delegates from an advance party who were “very surprised” to find out Insp (NS) Gim could speak fluent Korean. When asked, he shared his heritage, “And they were cool about it.”

Insp (NS) Gim’s job was to facilitate discussions between SPF officers and the North Korean delegates. “If there’s a language barrier and no one is there to facilitate, misunderstandings can arise,” he said. “But once our team was there, everything could be worked out.” 

The Summit also gave Insp (NS) Gim an opportunity to realise that the common perceptions of North Koreans were different from what he had experienced. “The delegates that I spoke to were very nice.” He recalled. “After the Summit, they thanked us, and showed their appreciation for our efforts as hosts.”

Then came an unexpected invitation. “They shook my hand, thanked me and invited me to Pyongyang to eat naengmyeon,” he said. “So, if the SPF has a reason to visit North Korea, I’d gladly go if needed.”

Ready by First Light
For Warrant Officer 1 (WO1) Zulkasyfi Bin Yunos, an Emergency Medical Technician from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), the Summit was a showcase of the Home Team spirit. 

While there were trying times, especially for WO1 Zulkasyfi as the Summit fell during the fasting month of Ramadan, the deployment was an unforgettable one, not least because it allowed him to catch a glimpse of President Donald Trump.

21 June 2018 Singapore Summit 2 SCDF
WO1 Zulkasyfi Biin Yunos, who is based at Sengkang Fire Station, posing with a Fire Medical Vehicle. PHOTO: SCDF

WO1 Zulkasyfi was part of a Fire Medical Vehicle crew that was attached to the President’s convoy, which stretched over 30 vehicles. That meant early morning starts and a 24-hour standby duty. 

WO1 Zulkasyfi ate his pre-dawn meal before reporting for duty. “It was tough, especially at 12pm in the afternoon, when the sun was really hot,” he recalled. “We only had our own vehicles for shelter, and we endured it because that’s what we’re trained to do during standby.” 

Duty came first for WO1 Zulkasyfi and his fellow officers, and team spirit was the order of the day. “As a first responder, such operations can be a challenge, but we’re trained for this,” he recounted. 

Recalling the excitement of the Summit, what stood out for WO1 Zulkasyfi was the commitment of the officers on duty. “The coordination between all our Home Team counterparts was fantastic,” he said. “Even though this was a last-minute assignment, as one Home Team, we really worked together.”
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 21 June 2018
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