Skip to navigationSkip to content

The Korea summit is letting many hear how Kim Jong-un sounds in conversation for the first time

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet in the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018.
Korea Summit Press Pool/Pool via Reuters
Small talk, big summit.
By Steve Mollman
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The Korea summit got underway this morning (local time) at the border separating North Korea and its southern neighbor. While images of Kim Jong-un crossing the military demarcation line next to South Korean president Moon Jae-in were interesting, what captivated many was hearing what Kim actually sounds like when he speaks conversationally.

For years, Kim has been presented to the world primarily in images. Or if shown in video, it’s typically when he’s making announcements or giving speeches. But today he could be heard chatting about tonight’s dinner for instance, as noted by Hawong Jung, a Seoul correspondent for the AFP news agency.

Meanwhile Bloomberg journalists also commented, on a live blog covering the summit, about hearing Kim talk in conversation. Kyung Bok Cho, a news editor, remarked, “To my ears, Kim Jong Un doesn’t have much of a northern accent. He wouldn’t sound that out of place in the middle of Seoul.”

“Very surreal to me to hear Kim speaking—we so often see still pictures of his face, but rarely hear his voice,” added Colin Keating, another editor.

Until this year Kim had not made much of a mark in international diplomacy. It was only last month that he embarked on his first official trip outside North Korea, traveling by train to Beijing to visit Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Images cropped up yesterday of Kim shaking hands over Easter weekend with Mike Pompeo—now US secretary of state, then CIA director—who made a secret trip to Pyongyang to lay the groundwork for an upcoming Kim-Trump summit.

Today, the world has seen and heard Kim to a degree that’s so far been rare—but will likely become less so.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.