North Korea Pulls Anti-American Merchandise from Souvenir Shops

North Korean souvenirs postcards and book purchased by Matthew Lee, diplomatic writer for The Associated Press, are photographed in Washington, Friday, May 11, 2018. Lee was one of two journalists allowed to accompany Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his trip to North Korea this week. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Not only has North Korea canceled its annual month of anti-American rage this year (or at least toned it down quite a bit), but visitors tell reporters this week that America-bashing merchandise is disappearing from souvenir shops despite their status as perennial bestsellers.

Granted that most information about secretive North Korea is anecdotal in nature, and quiet orders from Pyongyang to cool it with Uncle-Sam-as-the-Devil bobbleheads could be quickly reversed, eyewitness accounts related by Fox News agree there has been a real change in the North Korean hate fetish industry:

Western companies that offer guided tours in the Hermit Kingdom say from the DMZ to Pyongyang, anti-American souvenirs, stamps and postcards have been disappearing from store shelves.

“They’re always very popular, not very subtle, and, as of now, have all been removed,” Simon Cockerell, the general manager at Koryo Tours, told Reuters.

Another tour manager told the news organization that “they’ve shifted the focus from anti-Americanism to improving agriculture, sports and boosting the local economy.”

“It’s not just at the DMZ, all the anti-American posters I usually see around Kim Il Sung Square and at shops [in Pyongyang], they’ve all just gone,” said Rowan Beard of Young Pioneer Tours. “In five years working in North Korea, I’ve never seen them completely disappear before.”

“North Korea, for decades, has had the virulent anti-U.S. propaganda. It’s all stopped,” added analyst Gordon Chang. “All the anti-U.S. trinkets have been now replaced with trinkets now showing friendship.”

Fox News says, “it appears that some opinions in North Korea have changed,” while the Associated Press calls it a “sign of detente,” which humorously understates how top-down and subject to instant revision all of this is. North Korean shopkeepers do not mothball their best-selling wares because they suddenly feel great about America and no longer wish to hawk postcards that show a nuclear attack on Washington.

It should be obvious these merchandise sales and anti-American demonstrations are partly intended as signals to foreign visitors and journalists, and right now, the signal is positive and upbeat. The move may be unprecedented by a leader like dictator Kim Jong-un and perhaps may get foreign investors thinking about the possibilities in reformed North Korea.