After being conditioned to think of both South Korea and the United States as the “imperial savage aggressors”, it would clearly be a challenge for DPRK media directors to shift this narrative in order to prepare the people for the eventuality of peace and partnership with Seoul and Washington. Beyond this, if the DPRK leadership was apprehensive about the realistic chances of securing a comprehensive peace with the South and the United States, the news and propaganda output of the country would not have dramatically shifted in terms of how Americans and South Koreans are portrayed.
Last year, it was observed by frequent visitors to Pyongyang that old anti-American and anti-South posters and art displays had been replaced by public art emphasising a shared North-South Korean fraternity. This was a good indication that the DPRK was preparing its people for a shift in an otherwise semi-unilateral public mentality that has been carefully crafted since the days of Kim il-Sung.
Thus, in a country in which social developments tend to be stable and centrally managed, a change in official government narratives is vastly more indicative of actual policy than it would be in more open countries.
This trend was confirmed exponentially in the DPRK’s official television news report on the Kim-Trump summit on the DMZ. Contrary to what one might expect, the news broadcast is fully accurate in terms of its factual content and its failure to omit crucial details. The report speaks about the warm personal bonds between the DPRK’s Supreme Leader and the US President whilst also offering constructive realism about a would-be timeline for a final peace deal.
The DPRK report acknowledges that an extended peace process will be a gradual and time consuming phenomenon and that there are bound to be some reasonable disagreements along the way. However, the report remains optimistic that the sincere willingness of Kim and Trump to open up a new era of peace and enlightenment remains a goal that is both realistic and mutually advantageous.
In this sense, the tone of the DPRK’s report was more dignified and more accurate than what came out of western liberal media in the aftermath of the historic meeting during which time Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to enter the DPRK. Beyond this, the DPRK revealed previously unseen photos of Ivanka Trump shaking hands with Kim Jong-un. This contrasted sharply with liberal media’s mockery of Ivanka’s presence in Korea and in Japan for the G20 summit. Assuming that Donald Trump sees this footage, he will be all too aware that whilst American and European liberal media heaped scorn on his daughter, DPRK media portrayed her interaction with Kim in a stately and respectful manner.
The DPRK also showed footage of Kim shaking hands with US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. As Mnuchin is best known for announcing new sanctions on multiple countries, the fact that he was personally introduced to Kim could be an indication that the US might become more wiling to lessen sanctions during rather than after the de-nuclearisation process.
Whilst scepticism might get otherwise non-entities onto television, the genuine spirit of optimism shared by Moon Jae-in, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump is palpable. The fact that this optimism is now being conveyed by the once stridently anti-American and anti-South DPRK media means that Pyongyang is conditioning its population for an irreversible shift in relations with the wider world.