State television broadcast an extensive 40-minute documentary-style feature on dictator Kim Jong-un’s meeting with “supreme leader” U.S. President Donald Trump two days after Kim returned to North Korea, announcing that Trump treated Kim with “respect and endless admiration.”
The documentary followed a news report by Ri Chun-hee, North Korea’s flagship news anchor who long ago officially retired but returns for special editions of the news to announce major breaks in North Korean politics.
As with the reports in Rodong Sinmun, the government-run newspaper, North Korean television claimed that Trump had agreed to lift the unprecedented heavy sanctions on North Korea, which both Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have repeatedly insisted is not the case.
North Korea bans all media that is not directly run by the government’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, so the footage broadcast Wednesday is the only one to which North Korean citizens have access:
The documentary begins with Kim Jong-un departing on a Chinese charter plane from Pyongyang, where a military orchestra was assembled to see him away to Singapore. The images are overlayed with dramatic orchestral Soviet-style music and an overwrought narrator describing the significance of the historic trip. The music does not cease throughout the documentary, even though an actual orchestra only appears in the video at the beginning.
In Singapore, the documentary shows Kim touring the city-state in his car, greeted by large crowds waving at his convoy. According to a translation of the footage from Agence France-Presse (AFP), the narrator tells listeners that “Singapore, a beautiful and developed city, has become all the more famous because of the meeting of the century” and that locals greeted Kim with “deep respect and boundless enthusiasm.”
“The streets were crowded with wellwishers who were full of reverence for Chairman Kim, who has come to lead world politics with his extraordinary political acumen,” the narrator notes.
The movie then cuts to Kim finally meeting President Trump, who is referred to as the “supreme leader” of the United States. Trump can be seen shaking hands with Kim, laughing, and greeting a North Korean soldier, who salutes him before Trump salutes back. Trump also reportedly “expressed respect and endless admiration for Chairman Kim,” according to the short film.
In addition to the movie showing Kim’s foreign visit, Ri Chun-hee, in her signature pink outfit, tells North Koreans that “the U.S. president “expressed his intention to halt the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises, which the DPRK [North Korea] side regards as a provocation, over a period of goodwill dialogue between the DPRK and the U.S., and [his intention to offer] security guarantees to the DPRK and lift sanctions against it”:
“Dear Respected Supreme Commander [Kim Jong-un] invited Trump to visit Pyongyang at a convenient time and Trump invited Kim to visit the U.S.,” she adds. “The two top leaders gladly accepted each other’s invitations and are convinced that it would serve as another important occasion for improved U.S.-DPRK relations.”
Both President Trump and senior members of the Trump administration have insisted lifting sanctions is not part of the process for Kim until complete denuclearization can be proven. In remarks Thursday in South Korea, Pompeo reiterated this stance. “We’re going to get complete denuclearization; only then will there be relief from the sanctions,” Pompeo told reporters, insisting that “that sanctions relief cannot take place until such time as we have demonstrated that North Korea has been completely denuclearized.”
Reuters notes that the presence of Ri on screen is a sign that North Korea considers this as important a moment in its history as it has repeatedly stated in its media. Ri was tasked with two of the most important broadcasts in North Korean history: announcing the deaths of founder and “eternal president” Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Jong-il.
“Despite officially retiring in 2012, Ri has come back from time to time to make big announcements. Ri’s image has often appeared on South Korean coverage of major events in North Korea, meaning some South Koreans, associating her with ominous developments, dread her appearance,” Reuters adds.
The commentary on television echoes what appeared in the Wednesday edition of Rodong Sinmun, which showcased several photo collages of the Kim-Trump summit and claimed that Trump was ready to lift sanctions on the regime. The prominent featuring of Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton – whom Rodong Sinmun has referred to in the past as “human scum” – suggested that North Korea was ready to change its attitude towards the American leadership.
North Korea has not expressed any desire to change its position as the most repressive regime in the world, and President Trump did not indicate that any major conversations on shutting down North Korea’s sprawling concentration camps or allowing any freedom of religion or expression were on the table.