The US-North Korea summit in Singapore was notable for all sorts of reasons. For starters, it was the first time a sitting US president met with a North Korean leader. But also remarkable was the way in which ordinary North Koreans learned of Kim Jong Un’s trip.
Yesterday’s (June 11) edition of the Rodong Sinmun—the official newspaper of the ruling party—shared details of Kim’s itinerary, including the fact that he stopped in China and arrived in Singapore on an Air China jet. Usually there’d be a delay until at least Kim was safely back in North Korea. The paper and other media also explained why Kim was in Singapore: to meet the leader of the US, which North Koreans are taught from an early age is the enemy.
Today’s (June 12) edition of the state-controlled paper was even more remarkable. North Korea is not prone to showing its long-suffering people images of the outside world that hint at a higher quality of life elsewhere. Yet the front page of today’s Rodong Sinmun showed 14 images from Kim’s nighttime stroll through the wealthy city-state, with its sparkling buildings visible in the background or shown on their own.
What’s more, the paper quotes Kim saying that (paywall) he “plans to learn much from [Singapore] and their amazing knowledge and experience,” and that he “got to know Singapore’s economic power and development as well as their amazing rise.” For the Supreme Leader to say he can learn things from other countries—and for state media to print it—is highly unusual.
Some North Korea watchers even wondered whether this aspect of the domestic media coverage was more significant than the meeting with Trump.
The speed at which the news reached North Koreans was also a surprise. The photos of Kim’s walk, which took place on Monday evening, were shown in Tuesday’s issue of the paper. The coverage also had a sense of fun to it, in stark contrast to the more sober style to which readers are accustomed.