North Koreans have seen President Trump shaking hands with Kim Jong Un at their historic summit in Singapore, and even awkwardly saluting a three-star general. It’s a far cry from the “dotard” label their government slapped on him last year.
Previously, even on a good day, the best he might get was “Trump.” No honorifics. No signs of respect. Now, he’s being called “the president of the United States of America.” Or “President Donald J. Trump.” Even “supreme leader.”
The post-summit transformation of North Korea’s official version of Trump, who’s now being shown by state media looking serious and almost regal, underscores the carefully choreographed reality show the government has had to perform to keep its people, taught from childhood to hate and distrust the “American imperialists,” ideologically on board with the tectonic shifts underway in their country’s relationship with Washington.
To be sure, the star of the show was Kim. The media depicted Kim as statesmanlike beyond his years, confident and polite, quick to smile and firmly in control. He was shown allowing the older American — Trump, in his seventies, is more than twice Kim’s age — to lean in toward him to shake hands, or give a thumbs up, then walking a few steps ahead to a working lunch.
For the average North Korean, the state media’s coverage of Kim Jong Un’s diplomatic blitz this year must seem nothing short of astonishing.