- Thomson Reuters
- President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office on Friday, and it could be a powerful new attack on Kim Jong Un.
- By reaching out to North Koreans who have abandoned Kim, he puts the North Korean leader in an odd spot.
- Experts have said that a powerful media campaign against Kim Jong Un could topple his regime in North Korea without a shot fired.
President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office on Friday, the latest in a new possible vein of attack on Kim Jong Un.
Though Trump has made news repeatedly with bellicose language threatening war with North Korea, his State of the Union address advanced another offensive against Pyongyang – raising the issue of human rights.
“No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea,” Trump said on Tuesday. “We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies.”
Perhaps the most powerful moment of the hour-long address came not from Trump, but from Ji Seong Ho, a North Korean defector and double-amputee who raised his crutches, celebrating his freedom and escape from oppression.
“I was moved to tears,” Ji told Voice of America’s Korean service. “I have never felt more honored in my life.”
But beyond establishing the US’s moral high ground in the North Korean crisis, or simply making a point in a speech, Ji said that Trump standing up for those oppressed by the Kim regime could have a powerful effect on politics in Pyongyang.
Trump’s expressed concern for human rights “will be meaningful to the people of North Korea,” Ji said. “It probably will come as a big threat to the North Korean regime.”
Kim’s power in question
- REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
In written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said that outside information would be Kim’s “kryptonite,” a weapon that could collapse the brutal regime without a shot.
Blair advocated a barrage of information from nearby cell towers in China, CDs, USB drives, and other forms of media to inform the public and to “separate the Kim family from its primary support – the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”
Experts routinely point out that Kim’s regime survives on its control of people and information, which it enforces brutally with prison camps and death sentences for citizens found with outside media.
But outside media does get into North Korea. South Korean pop music and dramas have become popular among North Korea’s elite, but to truly weaponize the trend, the right information needs to get in. That’s where Trump reaching out to defectors could play in.
Does Trump have the right message?
North Korea inculcates its citizens with propaganda from birth. They are taught that the US is the enemy, that Kim is their savior, and that there can be no way other than what the state allows.
But North Korean’ media is littered with tales of North Korean citizens and their achievements being recognized abroad. North Koreans are conditioned to celebrate the limited world recognition they and their country gets. When North Korean defectors visit the Oval Office, the seat of the greatest political power in the world, and Kim’s sworn enemy, how will the citizens at home feel?
Trump has a talent for making news. Defectors shaking hands and speaking with a sitting US president in the White House is huge news for North Korea, but totally contradicts its narratives. The most powerful man in the world is welcoming and honoring North Koreans and standing up for their rights as people.
Kim Jong Un can muster up some more anti-US propaganda, or issue another paper on how Trump tweeting mean things about CNN is a human rights violation, or sentence yet more of his own people to prison camps where tens of thousands already languish in holocaust-level conditions, but he can’t change the fact that his citizens live in poor conditions while the world around him thrives.