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View more articles by Chad O'Carroll
Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
The South Korean government is conducting a paid publicity campaign at multiple government levels to promote goodwill and optimism surrounding Friday’s summit meeting, analysis of official social media output by NK News shows.
Government ministries, city administrations, local law enforcement agencies and even state news agencies are together promoting a sustained vision surrounding South Korea’s official tagline for the summit: “Peace, a New Start”.
South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), for example, launched a paid Twitter campaign on Monday to drive traffic to a video featuring Minister Kang Kyung-hwa, beckoning foreigners to “cheer us on” at Friday’s summit.
The official account of the government of the Republic of Korea also launched its own paid Twitter campaign to drive visits to its official summit portal, which features best-wish videos from South Korean short-track speed skaters and K-pop starts, among others.
An officially made Busan / Pyongyang Police force video
At a more local level, Busan’s police force created a video comparing it with the Pyongyang police force, while the Seoul Office of Education posted a blog to inform readers about the time difference between the two capitals.
And South Korea’s state-affiliated Yonhap news agency is also promoting the same “Peace, A New Start” tagline on its dedicated summit-micro site, distributing more personalized well-wisher videos from other South Korean celebrities.
It’s all a far cry from just six months ago, when North Korea test-launched its Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile and South Korean government officials were discussing whether or not Pyongyang had finally crossed “the red line“.
And while North Korea has since halted all nuclear and missile tests since, most analysts believe that both Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un face serious hurdles ahead in being able to negotiate a lasting peace from Friday’s summit.
“I see a huge wave of optimism which is partially sincere, but at least partially encouraged by the government,” said Dr. Andrei Lankov, a long-time North Korea watcher and director of the Korea Risk Group.
“Will it backfire when the sorry reality begins obvious again?”
“Perhaps, people will get burned in a more painful way because of exaggerated expectations, but right now the ROK government does not care that much.”
That’s because Seoul must create the “right environment” to increase the chances of success for the forthcoming U.S.-ROK summit, he said.
Christopher Green, Managing Editor of the Sino-NK.com website, said that the social media effort is “obviously a campaign led from the center, with the objective, presumably, of normalizing North Korea in the eyes of the population.”
“That is an essential prerequisite if the government wants to propel South Korea into confederation with the North or something of that nature,” he said.
“But equally, the government wants to promote itself, and the effort it is going to in order to bring peace and security to South Korea.
“If people think Moon Jae-in is doing a good job as president, the Minjoo Party wins the local elections in June. Most of the time, it is that simple.”
Victor Cha, who was Donald Trump’s pick for Ambassador to South Korea until earlier this year, told NK News in Seoul on Wednesday that he sensed a “sense of excitement…about this summit here”.
He said the atmosphere felt “almost like everyone’s preparing for a celebration on Friday.”
“It’s a little bit different in Washington.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Busan Police Force