In the introductory review on my September 2018 visit to North Korea I noted that the US President, Donald Trump, had entered into an amorous relationship with Kim Jong-un. On 29 September, 2018 at a political rally in Wheeling, West Virginia, President Trump declared that he and Kim Jong-un “fell in love” after the North Korean leader wrote him “beautiful letters”.
“I was really being tough, and so was he,” President Trump said of Marshal Kim. “And we were going back and forth, and then we fell in love, OK? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they’re great letters. We fell in love.”
The ‘beautiful letters’ have not, to my knowledge, been made pubic but the actions and utterances from Kim Jong–un since Trump’s assuming the Presidency of the United States could lead one to believe that this love was real. Alternatively, is Kim Jong-un leading Trump up the garden path or does Trump think he is fooling Kim?
As a token of Kim’s return love there has been an almost universal removal of anti-American rhetoric within North Korea. From a tourist perspective, guides now rarely mention the U.S. in a negative way and where a negative comment is required they refer to ‘the enemy’). Additionally anti-U.S. propaganda murals and the like has been removed or covered up right across the country and the previously popular anti-U.S. propaganda posters and postcards are no longer on sale to tourists. Our guides regularly proclaimed an admiration for President Trump and recent moves by the U.S. to bring peace and a speedy reunification to the Korean peninsula.
Accordingly, posters as depicted in my lead picture and below can no longer be procured and/or are no longer displayed.
Also, of particular note (and actually a great disappointment to visiting tourists) is that the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities has been closed to foreign tourists. This no-holds-bar museum is North Korea’s primary internal outlet for exposing ‘the truth’ on American atrocities against North Korea since the General Sherman incident in 1866 but focusing on the Korean War (1950-53). My review on the museum, based on my 2014 visit, can be found HERE.
Anyone who visited North Korea, prior to say a year ago, would know that the above are massive goodwill concessions on the part of Kim Jong-un. Now that denigrating and belittling the U.S. to tourists has stopped official guide scripts/commentaries are light-on. Though there certainly has been an increase in focus on the crimes committed by Japan during its 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula the ensuing rhetoric is mild compared to the previous focus on US transgressions.
Of course, knowing what Kim Jong-un and tourist guides think of (or at least say about) Americans does not tell us what the average North Korean really thinks. That is unless we work on the supposition that North Koreans, either through loyalty or through brainwashing (take your pick), accept that everything the Leader does/says is done solely for their benefit in which case then surely they will hold similar views.
Below I include what I wrote on this blog about under the title of ‘Americans in North Korea’ following my 2014 trip. I include this verbatim as, notwithstanding what I saw in September 2018 and the current official North Korean line, I do not believe that, overnight, North Koreans (or the Leader) now love the U.S. (or indeed, much as it would hurt him, President Trump!) and sadly I feel my earlier review represents a fairer and more realistic assessment of what remains the current position – albeit currently covered by a very thing veil. I didn’t have to dig to hard with the guides (who generally believe and hold their positions 100%) to reach the view that they harboured reservations about the current script. On one particular occasion I remarked to one guide that the sight of two kids sitting on a park bench laughing with their father was indeed a beautiful sight. His retort was that not long ago the ‘bloody American bastards’ used to kill kids like this in the streets.
While I would love to think that the current love being expressed all round is genuine I do not think it is. North Korea has despised and hated the U.S. for a long time – long before the Korean War – and I cannot see this changing anytime soon.
Can the Kim dynasty really have changed overnight? A few quotations, if I may, from Kim Il-sung and the current leader, Kim Jong-un, (before the latter turned diplomat!)
‘Engels once called the British army the most brutal army. During the Second World War, the German fascist army surpassed the barbarism of the British army. No human brain could ever imagine more diabolic and terrible cruelty then those done by the Hitler gangsters at that time. But in Korea, the Americans have far exceed the Hitlerites!’ (Kim Il-sung to Swedish communist leader Frank Baude in 1993).
‘The most important thing in our war preparations is to teach all our people to hate U.S. imperialism. Otherwise, we will not be able to defeat the U.S. imperialists who boast of their technological superiority.” (Kim Il-sung).
‘The massacres committed by the U.S. imperialist aggressors in Sinchon evidently showed that they are cannibals and homicides seeking pleasure in slaughter.” (Kim Jong-un – 2014 on a visit to the Sinchon Museum).
‘I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue. Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation…. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.’ (Kim Jong-un – 2017 on Trump’s threat to totally destroy North Korea).
“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy (Trump) bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him” (Kim Jong-un 2017 – having called Trump’s threat to hit North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” a ‘load of nonsense’).
Add to this that the U.S. has offered nothing to support the newly found love of the President for Kim Jong-un, apart from a reduction in name calling by Trump and an increase in the already crippling sanctions imposed on the country.
In terms of the text below I should also point out that in September 2107 the U.S. banned its citizens from travelling to North Korea (with very limited exemptions, none of which relate to tourists). That initial ban was, very quietly, renewed for a further year on 30 August 2018, the day before it would otherwise have expired. North Korea has no restrictions on U.S. citizens visiting the country other than the minor ones referred to below.
Post my 2014 visit I wrote:-
Americans in North Korea (2014)
Anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of North Korea will be aware that the United States of America is public enemy number one, the very devil incarnate. Hardly a waking hour of our trip to the DPRK passed without us being reminded of this, whether it was via newspapers, mosaics, museum exhibits or our guides.
Those who didn’t realise prior to arrival, quickly learned that everything amiss, no matter how small or large, in North Korea is the direct responsibility of the United States. Knowing this prior to my trip the headline of the front page of the Pyongyang Times provided to us on the flight in from Beijing did not cause any surprise. It read “ US will be held accountable for any catastrophe on the Korean peninsula” (pictured above). What followed was really irrelevant – it could have been anything.
The United States is berated and denigrated at every opportunity and there is no holding back in this regard. Guides will stand there and feel no sense of uneasiness or need for any restraint as they speak of the evils of Uncle Sam. The fact that typically one third of tourists standing listening to them are U.Ss citizens matters not one iota.
My reader may be wondering why they let U.S. citizens into North Korea at all or indeed why U.S. citizens would want to go to North Korea.
From a North Korean perspective there is no animosity whatsoever to individual U.S. visitors (though there are a few restrictions) and as individuals on a tour Americans were treated equally to citizens of other counties. While it does seem odd, given their unending denigration of the U.S., guides get on very well with Americans tourists.
Individual Americans should have no fear whatsoever in visiting North Korea – conditional, of course, on them being able to put up the ongoing attack on the U.Ss and its Government. At the extreme, in the event that a few hostages were required for whatever reason I have no doubt American passport holders would be high on the list of desirable detainees but this is a situation not only applicable to North Korea.
While Americans and indeed many others will neither believe nor accept a lot of what is said by the guides you must respect their right to have a view. If you cannot accept this, be you American or not, do not go to North Korea. While the guides are open to some discussion you should not try to “save” them or convert them to your views – likewise they are not out to convert you.
About one third of my group was North American and each one thoroughly enjoyed their visit to North Korea and, no, not one of them was a die hard communist harbouring a dislike for the U.S.
I mentioned above that there are some restrictions on U.S. citizens – the most significant of these currently in operation is that U.S. citizens are not permitted to take the train from Pyongyang into China. However, once an American is accepted onto a specific tour their tour is identical to any other person on that tour.
While a nice little ‘loving’ game is currently being played, thankfully, I don’t see it as vital to the reunification of North and South Korea if players, in particular the U.S., really want that to happen. Sadly, this is debatable but a topic outside the scope of this blog.
My next North Korea 2018 – General Review – HERE
Return to the beginning of my North Korea 2018 – General Reviews –HERE