This week, North Koreans were introduced to a man named Donald J. Trump, who flew to this city-state to meet with their respected Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un.
Prior to this, they had known the U.S. president simply as “Trump,” who was described in the North Korean press last year as “senile,” “a living corpse” and, in one infamous turn of phrase, a “dotard.” As recently as March 6 this year, he was referred to in the country’s largest newspaper simply as “Trump, the nuclear warmonger.”
But on Monday, North Korea’s main party newspaper began referring to him as “Donald J. Trump, president of the United States of America.”
“It’s quite a sudden change,” says Peter Ward, a North Korea researcher at Seoul National University who closely studies the paper and other North Korean media outlets.
As rapprochement between the U.S. and North Korea gains momentum, North Korea has seized the public relations moment, depicting the summit between Messrs. Trump and Kim as a historic meeting of equals in which Mr. Kim more than held his own and suggesting that the North Korean leader may be savvier about spin than his familial predecessors.
Messrs. Trump and Kim, who had exchanged insults and threats throughout most of 2017, have hitched their fortunes together. Mr. Trump has begun referring to a man he once derided as “Little Rocket Man” by his more formal title, “Chairman Kim Jong Un.”
But the more dramatic transformation may be within North Korea, which exercises a great deal of control over the message that its citizens receive—and has been unrelenting in its skewering of U.S. leaders for decades.
“The tone is unlike anything that they have used to refer to any sitting U.S. president since the Korean War—I cannot think of one exception,” Mr. Ward said. [Continue reading…]