The Moscow Times reports that a 15-year-old Russian schoolgirl wrote a letter to Kim Jong-un, got an all-expenses-paid trip to the reclusive communist country, and returned the favor with some Soviet-style praise for Kim’s kingdom:
Maryana Naumova, who also happens to hold the title of strongest girl on the planet in powerlifting, sent an email to North Korea’s consulate in Russia in which she asked to pay a visit and meet with young athletes like herself.
“I didn’t even expect them to respond,” Naumova told The Moscow Times. “My dad had said it almost as a joke, ‘Write them a letter.'”
But within two weeks, she said, she received an unexpected response: “Come visit!” The North Korean Sports Ministry offered to cover all expenses for the trip. She and her father quickly got their visas and made their journey in early June.
Naumova said she had decided to go to see something new, “somewhere none of my friends have seen.”
In addition, she was motivated by the fact that she knew so little about the country that is at the center of so many horror stories, and wanted to see the place for herself.
“The rumors about the place did not turn out to be true. Of course, I realize that they did not show me everything, but in Pyongyang I saw ordinary kids buying ice cream and lemonade. People don’t buy that if they are poor.”
While she said she did see poor people outside of the city, she noted that this was not that different from any other country.
“Life may not be easy there but it is fair,” she said.
Kim’s uncle and all of his similarly executed blood relatives were not available for comment.