The Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un, someone who spent millions of dollars on his nuclear armament and wanted to bomb US back to the stone age, has suddenly found peace, so much so, he’s going through the most drastic of diplomatic changes.
Kim Jong Un’s drastic transformation
Kim Jong Un, in the past weeks, open-heartedly extended his hands for talks with the South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has consistently reiterated his stance that Kim Jon Un is a “nice guy” at heart and will give up his nuclear arsenal if dealt with properly.
The North Korean leader pushed the country’s nuclear program despite of International sanctions, but was able to produce little or no results. He has now put up the shocking offer of denuclearizing his country in an attempt to encourage summit meets with the governments of South Korea and the United States. On June 12th, he’ll become the first ever North Korean leader to meet a sitting American President.
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As the summit nears Kim has transformed himself to such an extent that some South Koreans have begun to assume that Kim Jong is more dependable than Donald Trump, despite their years of alliance with the United States.
Kim’s healthy relations with South Korea took even more shape in the eyes of the public when the leader was seen in a photo walking on a beach with President Moon and the Chinese President Xi Jinping, reportedly discussing North Korea’s nuclear options. This opinion was highlighted after Kim sent a calm message to Donald Trump when he had canceled the Singapore Summit, offering him “time and opportunity” to change his mind. It should be noted that Trump is viewed by many South Koreans as a “scattershot diplomat.”
Little rocket man wins big
In the western world, Kim is considered as a chubby child toying with nuclear missiles. President Donald Trump, who is more than twice his age, has reportedly referred to him as “short and fat”, “sick puppy” and “little rocket man.” But when the President will meet the dictator at Singapore, he will be faced with an entirely different personality: the ruler of a totalitarian state adept at political theatrics to bolster his charisma at home and advance his agenda abroad.
Chung Byung-ho, an anthropologist at Hanyang University in South Korea, who studied the role of theatrics in North Korean politics, in his book, says, “The reason the world pays attention to him is not just because he has a few nuclear weapons, but more because of his image as a leader with mystical power, his absolute control over a highly consolidated, regimented and disciplined country.”
A friend in Moon Jae-in
Whatever he truly might be, Kim Jong Un has found a helping hand in the form of Moon Jae-in to advocate his new image in the eyes of other governments. Since Mr. Moon took office a year ago, he has constantly reached out to Donald Trump to give the idea that Kim is a reasonable leader. Moon argued that if the right incentives are given to the Kim Jong, such as normalized ties and security assurance, there’s a chance that he might be willing to give up his nukes. More recently, Donald Trump has started calling the North Korean leader, “smart and gracious” and “very honorable.”
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Kim Jong began his transformation firstly by establishing close ties with South Korea and then moved to Washington after closing down North Korea’s only known Nuclear Test Site and releasing three American prisoners. Kim also focused on good relations with China, whose aid was essential to him during negotiations with the US government.
Where all these steps might have changed his image slightly, the event that had the most impact on his image was when he invited Mr. Moon to step on North Korean soil for 10 seconds and then walked with him to South Korea while holding hands. The anthropologist Mr. Chung said that: “That single gesture went beyond political language. The theatrics conveyed messages of trust that language alone could not.”
Whereas the summit might have resulted in rather vague commitments, the pictures taken at the summit made it a success depicting warm ties between the two counties and harnessing Mr. Kim’s image in the eyes of many South Koreans. Thanks to the summit, the man who was previously identified as the most dangerous man in the region was now being seen by more than 77 percent of South Koreans as “trustworthy.” Moon Jae-in is reported to have told Kim Jong the second time they met that his “popularity has risen rapidly among South Koreans, and so have the expectations.” Kim’s response, “That’s great to hear.”
The divided critics
Critics, however, warned of dashed expectations and argued that Kim will never let go of his nukes as they are of immense importance to him since the survival of his regime depends on it. Ra Jong Vil, a political scientist and former deputy director of the South’s National Intelligence Service said “It’s right to be skeptical, how can the leader of a nation change so quickly? We tend to see what we want to see in North Korea.”
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Many are expecting that in the meeting with President Trump, Kim will likely agree to denuclearize his country, to weaken the international sanctions on his regime. It is also said that Kim fears that whatever agreement will be reached may not last long in light of Washington’s unpredictable politics.
Shim Jin-sup, a former South Korean military warfare officer and an expert on North Korea propaganda said, “the whole world is being duped.”