Anti-U.S. souvenirs once for sale in North Korean tourist-oriented gift shops are no longer being stocked, according to multiple tour guides who have traveled to the DPRK in the past week.
Multiple locations, including a gift shop at the DMZ and stamp shops in Pyongyang and Kaesong, have apparently removed anti-American postcards, posters, and stamps which used to be offered to tourists, said Rowan Beard, a tour manager for Young Pioneer Tours.
While he “still saw some postcards around, but it was a very local shop,” employees of major tourist destination shops appear to have received instructions to remove them sometime after late May, when anti-U.S. posters were last seen on display.
Koryo Tours General Manager Simon Cockerell, too, told NK News on Wednesday afternoon that his company “had a tour group at Panmunjom both last week and this morning, both of whom reported the absence of anti-American propaganda material.”
These, he added, have been “replaced by items more focused on positive themes such as reunification rather than the often violent anti-U.S. images” common in the past.
The removal of these items follows an NK News investigation from last month, which found anti-U.S. state propaganda posters had been mostly removed from displays around Pyongyang and other North Korean cities.
Beard confirmed the continued absence of these posters, saying: “All the usual spots where I saw the anti-American posters along Kim Il Sung Square have been removed.”
He added that he had not seen any during a recent trip, and that the “usual spots where they usually show posters and change them every month or so” were blank.
North Korea released new propaganda posters online last month, promoting the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration and recent improved inter-Korean relations, though Beard said he did not spot these on display Pyongyang and that these were not on sale in the souvenir shops.
The removal of anti-U.S. posters and now souvenirs in North Korea may be linked to warming U.S-DPRK relations, culminating last week in a summit between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore.
Trump has repeatedly made clear his intention to avoid insulting Kim Jong Un in the days since the summit, most evident in his push to halt what he called “provocative” joint military exercises with South Korea.
Kim and Trump both also praised each other following their meeting, and North Korean media has refrained from releasing anti-U.S. editorials since the summit was confirmed earlier this month.
Koryo Tours’ Simon Cockerell said that given how institutionally anti-American the DPRK is, the removal of anti-U.S. propaganda “may be the start of a real softening of rhetoric.”
The next test in the back-and-forth gestures of goodwill will come next week, surrounding the 68th anniversary of the start of the Korean war on June 25.
North Korea typically holds mass rallies to promote anti-U.S. sentiment and also releases new stamps on June 25 marking the beginning of “Struggle Against US Imperialism Month,” which lasts until July 27.
These stamps are still displayed online going back several years in an archive on North Korean website DPRK Today, and anti-U.S. propaganda posters still appear on a separate site Uriminzokkiri.
In previous years, North Korean media had already by mid-June announced the month-long “struggle,” in articles promoting letters of support from other countries.
There are yet to be any mentions of the June 25 holiday this year.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: North Korean sellers in a stamps shop, North Hwanghae Province, Kaesong, North Korea by Eric Lafforgue on 2012-09-08 04:30:03