Perception management is an important tool for all governments and indeed for private corporations. In so far as this is the case, the DPRK is no exception to the rule. While DPRK citizens are generally far more isolated from foreign sources of information (or disinformation) than those in many other nations, this has not lessened the importance of the DPRK’s own goals in respect of managing the collective perception of current events vis-a-vis nations where there is more competition in the domestic infowar.
The long running hostilities between Pyongyang and Washington has resulted in familiar scenes of anti-American art being posted around DPRK cities, towns and schools. This was the case from the earliest days of Kim Il-sung’s rule up until today. Now however, things appear to be changing.
Visitors to the DPRK have noticed that over the last month, many anti-American art works have been replaced by paintings and drawings promoting inter-Korean peace and reconciliation as well as collective economic progress.
This is a marked departure from the customary images of the DPRK’s armed forces crushing the once hated American foe.
North Korean propaganda changes its tune!
This poster calls for an easing of tension to counter "the danger of war" pic.twitter.com/GWxheFG3yz
— Breaking News (@Breakin67275821) June 22, 2018
Today, with imagines of doves replacing images of missiles and images of barbed wire being steamrolled replacing imagines of DPRK warriors slaying enemy soldiers, it is now clear that the DPRK’s government is preparing the people to psychologically embrace what Kim Jong-un called a “new era” during his Singapore meeting with Donald Trump.
While literally dealing with symbolism, the replacing of old anti-American art with new pro-peace and pro-cooperation images is more than just symbolic. It instead hints at a new official mentality that Pyongyang’s leadership seeks to convey to its people. The message overtly suggests that an atmosphere of openness and optimism for the future has replaced decades of mistrust, caution and anger.
If the DPRK somehow planned not to fulfil its commitments to peace, openness and de-nuclearisation as some have suspected, there would be no reason for the country’s authorities to so rapidly change the nature of public political art. Instead, the rapid change of tone as conveyed in official symbolism is indicative of a wholesale reformation of public discourse in the country. Furthermore, this shift is clearly reflective of the new mentality among the nation’s political leadership.
The distrust that many have projected onto the DPRK is widely unfounded, especially given the recent record of Kim Jong-un’s government doing everything it said it would do. In 2017, Pyongyang made it clear that it had every intention to complete its full scale inter-continental nuclear deterrent and only after nuclear parity was reached would officials be willing to engage in discussions with others, including the United States.
Months after nuclear parity was reached, the DPRK extended an olive branch to Seoul which culminated in Kim Jong-un’s visit to South Korea and shortly thereafter, his equally historic meeting with the US President. The DPRK has embraced positive change for peace and prosperity and the only people who seem to be dragging their feet are the cynics in the liberal western media who seem confounded by the idea that a brighter future awaits the Korean people and the wider world as a result of a successful peace process.