The unusual change in the propaganda of North Korea that no longer shows nuclear missiles targeting the United States

The unusual change in the propaganda of North Korea that no longer shows nuclear missiles targeting the United States


This poster asks for a relaxation to counteract “the danger of war”

A sign of change is already seen in the streets of North Korea.

And it is that in recent months, apparently, the famous propaganda of the most hermetic country in the world has been lowering its tone.

Until recently, banners and posters on display in the capital and other cities typically presented the United States as a brutal imperialist aggressor and South Korea or Japan as the willing allies of that archenemy.

But testimonies from people who have recently been ruled by Kim Jong-un claim that these fences, signs, advertisements and murals were replaced by others about economic progress and inter-Korean rapprochement.

The changes do not end there.

Several analysts say that the main North Korean media, strongly controlled by the State, have also experienced a change in tone.

So, is the United States no longer painted as an enemy?

The new times

The vast majority of North Koreans have very little access to information, so state media and propaganda have a much greater impact than in other parts of the world.

With the United States traditionally represented as the main enemy, the propaganda never stopped to show how Pyongyang would respond: based on missiles and with invincible troops that crush the invaders.

The posters were destined for decades to inspire patriotism , build trust in leadership and give meaning to the belief that surrendering life in combat is the act of greatest glory for the nation.

Copyright of the image PETER WARD
Image caption Relentlessrevenge” and destruction of the United States: that was the North Korean propaganda until recently.

“Posters with tougher messages in North Korea are usually placed only when things are not going well internationally,” Andray Abrahamian of Griffith University in Australia tells BBC News.

Then, when times are more positive, propaganda will be too.

And now it seems to be one of those moments.

After months of belligerent war threats, North Korea held historic summits with South Korea and the United States, and promised, albeit in vague terms, to give up their precious nuclear arsenal and work for peace.

But the changes have not been left in Pyongyang.

Foreign guides who take groups of tourists to the interior of the country say that in recent months the narrative of propaganda has taken a distinctive turn.

Instead of aggressive rhetoric, there is now a focus on more positive messages , which praise the Panmunjom Declaration, signed by Kim with North Korean President Moon Jae-in at the April meeting.

“All the anti-American posters that I usually see in Kim Il-sung Square and in the stores have just gone,” Reuters Rowan Beard, manager of the travel agency Young Pioneer Tours, told Reuters.

” In five years working in North Korea, I had never seen them disappear completely before, ” he added.

New propaganda

Of course, the new posters are as propagandistic as the previous ones, but they highlight different themes: the reunification of the Koreas, economic progress and scientific achievement.

Copyright of the DPRKTODAY image
Image caption The new posters highlight issues such as the reunification of the Koreas, economic progress and scientific achievement

The change follows an internal logic: if it is reported that the conversations with the South and EE. UU they are the beginning of a possible future cooperation, the two ex-offenders must show themselves in a more neutral and less threatening way.

Why else would Kim Jong-un sit down to talk with the leaders of those countries?

“Pyongyang needs an atmosphere of peace and relaxation and such posters would help create it,” explains North Korean journalist Fyodor Tertitskiy of NK News.

Even the anti-American trinkets that used to be sold to tourists as souvenirs have begun to change.

Copyright of the DPRKTODA image
Image caption This poster advocates the progress of science and technology.

You can no longer be more, for example, postcards, posters or labels showing the North Korean missiles bound for Washington.

uptura with tradition

Changes in official policy are also reflected in the main national newspaper, Rodong Sinmun.

And there is no free press in North Korea: all the media are closely controlled and everything that is published or disseminated is carefully examined under the official lines of the government.

In general, the newspaper regularly published negative reports about the United States, describing Washington as a hostile force and listing its participation in conflicts such as Syria as a test of US imperialism.

Rodong Sinmun
Copyright of the RODONG SINMUN image
Image caption The North Korean press reported on Trump and Kim’s meeting in Singapore.

But before the June 12 meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, the newspaper , usually with a lively language, ceased to be critical of the United States.

Even during the days of the summit, he showed the meeting with images that had nothing of the previous tensions and showed Kim as a statesman, creator of world peace.

In a remarkable break with tradition, television and newspapers also reported Kim’s recent travels to China, almost in real time, whereas before it would have taken the North Koreans days to read about those events.

“In tone, the United States is now represented as if it were a normal country,” explains Peter Ward, North Korea expert and commentator for NK News.

“All references to US actions that North Korea considers hostile acts have disappeared from the newspaper,” he adds.

Even this week there was what Ward describes as a “neutral” coverage : the news that Washington was resigning from the UN Human Rights Council.

“This is fascinating – in general terms, neutral or positive coverage is normally reserved for countries with which Pyongyang has friendly relations,” he says.

But what nobody is clear until now is whether this sudden change is part of the moment or is here to stay.

There is also the question of how, beyond the nine posters, life can change for ordinary North Koreans.

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