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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
A recently-issued book by a prominent North Korean publisher aimed at hailing Kim Jong Un’s summit diplomacy between 2018 and 2019 has notably excluded mention of the DPRK leader’s February meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi.
The 275-page book, “Open the new era of peace and prosperity,” was published by the Pyongyang Publishing House on September 10 and written by Kim Hye Ran, though NK News was unable to verify whether it is being circulated internally or is for international audiences.
The book, seen by NK News, consists of four chapters, with chapter three detailing several inter-Korean events and meetings which took place this year and in 2018.
Chapter one and two detail Kim Jong Un’s reported efforts towards creating an atmosphere for reconciliation and dialogue on the peninsula between January 2018 and his first meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April.
In chapter three, the three summits between the North Korean leader and South Korean President held in 2018 as well as the Panmunjom Declaration and the Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September are also included.
But amid a now-months-long impasse in inter-Korean relations, the chapter only traces the development of inter-Korean relations up until mid-October last year, when high-level talks were held to discuss the follow-up measures to the Pyongyang Joint Declaration.
SECOND DPRK-U.S. SUMMIT A NO-SHOW
Chapter four, “Building an international environment for a new era of peace and prosperity,” begins with Kim Jong Un’s “unofficial visit” to China in March 2018 and ends with his “official goodwill visit” to Vietnam in February.
The book excludes the second DPRK-U.S. summit held in Hanoi, however, listing Kim Jong Un’s achievements in his summit diplomacy in what are largely rehashed reports from North Korean state media.
In chapter four, the table of contents is as follows:
1) Opening a new chapter of the DPRK-China friendship — 163
2) Opening up a new history of the DPRK-U.S. relations — 214
3) Opening the new era of the traditional friendship between the DPRK and Russia– 244
4) Opening the new chapter of the DPRK-Vietnam friendship — 261
After the book highlights the significance of the first DPRK-U.S. summit and the DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement, it jumps to the surprise Panmunjom meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim on June 30.
And while it excludes news of the Hanoi summit — widely believed to have been a humiliation for the North Korean leadership — the publication keeps a positive tone on the outcome of other DPRK-U.S. meetings.
Below is the part of the last page of the section that discusses the first DPRK-U.S. summit:
“After the historic the DPRK-U.S. summit in Singapore, the diplomatic war among countries surrounding the Korean peninsula heated up. Countries that had claimed to advocate a hostile attitude toward our Republic for a long time also set out to seek the improvement of relations.
The situation on the Korean peninsula now faces a phase of dramatic changes.
[The two countries] must terminate the extreme hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S. — which have long been most sharply confrontational and sustained — and open up new future for peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the world in line with the demand and interests of the people of the two countries.
The DPRK and the U.S…. took a significant first step through the historic DPRK-U.S. summit in Singapore in the path to dramatically transforming the most hostile relationship, in accordance with the needs of the times.
Both sides have a significant responsibility to lead the precious first step to a new epoch and an era of peace and prosperity… is laying ahead of them. The DPRK-U.S. summit and meeting in Singapore reminds once again the historical mission of the times.”
Although the publication features the North Korean leader’s visit to Vietnam, it does not make any mention of the second DPRK-U.S. summit or elaborate on his schedule between February 26 and 28:
“The train for private use carrying the respected and beloved leader arrived at Dong Dang Station in the border area of Vietnam at 8: 15 a.m. local time on February 26 in 2019 (Juche 108) after passing through several provinces and cities of the People’s Republic of China…
Along the hundreds of miles-long route between the border station… and Hanoi city where his lodgings were located, a large number of Vietnamese people of various strata warmly welcomed the respected and beloved leader while lining up in layers and waving the national flags of the two countries, bouquets aloft.
Respected and beloved leader Kim Jong Un met General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong at the Presidential Palace in the afternoon on March 1 and warmly shared greetings.”
The North Korean book does not conceal the fact that the second Kim-Trump summit took place, however, with the meeting being referenced later in the chapter.
Detailing North Korean media coverage of April’s first summit between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Kim sent a pointed warning to the U.S., the book says the two discussed “managing the unstable situation of the Korean peninsula in the wake of the second DPRK-U.S. summit talks.”
“The… leader pointed out that the situation on the Korean peninsula and in the region is at a standstill and has reached the perilous state where [the situation] could go back to square one as the U.S. took a unilateral stance in bad faith at the recently held second DPRK-U.S. summit, and he said the peace and security on the Korean peninsula will entirely depend on the U.S.’s future attitude and we will prepare for every possible situation.”
COMPILATION OF INTERESTING EPISODES
But despite the publication largely recycling DPRK media reports about the summits, it also adds some notable new details about past meetings between Kim Jong Un and foreign leaders.
One section offers a new interpretation of the significance of last May’s second meeting between Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“There was an identical assessment that the second rounds of… their meeting created a positive dynamic force for the stable development of bilateral relations, permanent peace on the Korean peninsula, and an order of peace in the region and the world,” the book reads.
“The meeting between the DPRK and Chinese top leaders, which took place again after about 40 days after the first, took place in the situation where negotiations to prevent the trade war between China and the U.S. proceeded in Beijing and China and the U.S. entered into conflict with each other,” it continues.
“The fact that the respected and beloved leader met President Xi Jinping, by itself, has historical significance…”
The book also touches on anecdotes from the third inter-Korean summit, the first meeting between Trump and Kim in June last year, and their talks at Panmunjom on June 30, as well as Kim’s visit to Vietnam in February.
It also introduces “new coinages and memorable scenes introduced by domestic and foreign media” during the third inter-Korean summit, saying the third meeting had prompted neologisms like “mallima speed of unification,” “era of peace,” and “cold noodle diplomacy.”
The publication also claims that the summit prompted a “Kim Jong Un craze” and increased demand for Pyongyang-style cold noodles in South Korea, and that the “press center was filled with excitement and heat.”
“After the respected and beloved leader made mention of the Pyongyang cold noodles of Okryugwan at the meeting, South Korean society wholly bubbled over with talk of Pyongyang cold noodles,” the book reads.
“Posts such as ‘we wait for the day when we can go to eat Pyongyang cold noodles by train’ were explosively uploaded and Pyongyang noodles became the most popular word on Twitter.”
Recounting episodes from June’s Panmunjom meeting, the book also says: “President Trump, in a red-colored necktie and a suit, appeared in the demilitarized zone, and he was recorded as being the first U.S. President to visit the demilitarized zone without a military uniform.”
In the wake of the surprising meeting in Panmunjom, the publication also says, “stock prices of companies related to inter-Korean economic cooperation went up in an instant with the rising expectation that sanctions imposed on the Republic would be relaxed.”
“In particular, the stock prices of Hyundai-related companies including Hyundai Elevator and Hyundai Engineering & Construction, which played a major role in inter-Korean economic cooperation in the past, climbed 3 or 4 %.”
The publication also claims that international audiences lost interest in June 2019’s G20 summit in Osaka following Trump’s June 29 tweet expressing his desire to meet Kim in Panmunjom.
“Moreover, President Trump, who had been clamoring for a ‘strong alliance,’ did not give any notice in advance, and the ‘honeymoon relationship’ between the U.S. and Japan for which Abe had clamored fell under doubt.”
One Seoul-based DPRK watcher said the major audience of publications published by the Pyongyang Publishing House is not North Korean citizens, and that therefore the book may be aimed at foreigners.
“It would not be an exaggeration to say that Pyongyang Publishing House publishes the most interesting books in the country. Their target audience is mostly foreigners who speak Korean: overseas Koreans and scholars,” Fyodor Tertitskiy, a senior researcher at Kookmin University, told NK News.
“It is not always about politics… my absolute favorite is a book on a North Korean variation of the Korean language – very well written even by global standards.”
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun