The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 30, 2013

North Korean propaganda mill serves up soft side of Kim

(Continued)

When it comes to North Korean propaganda, much of the world focuses on the series of outlandish videos uploaded to the country's YouTube channel and government website, largely for foreign consumption. In one fantasy, missiles rain down on a burning American city while an instrumental version of "We Are the World" plays in the background. In another, President Barack Obama and U.S. troops burn.

But what most North Koreans see on state TV is a different propaganda message: Kim Jong Un bending down to receive flowers from children, Kim visiting families living in rustic homes on front-line islands, Kim mobbed by gushing female soldiers.

As with any propaganda or PR, the images are carefully staged. And many make foreign news headlines only when experts and photo editors discover that North Korea is digitally altering them. For instance, in a picture distributed recently by state media, troops and hovercraft land on a barren, snow-dappled beach. Experts say some of the multiple hovercraft have been copied and pasted into the image.

But North Korea's propaganda makers aren't concerned about the criticism abroad to their heavy-handed photo editing. "These efforts are aimed more at an unsophisticated domestic peasant audience than those of us who are more discerning," said Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank in Hawaii.

The caring domestic persona being built for Kim by his image specialists is aided by his wife, Ri Sol Ju.

She is young and glamorous, a chic and smiling presence at his side in many of the country's propaganda images. The couple is often photographed at amusement parks, nurseries, factory tours and concerts.

"It's a more complex kind of image he has as a leader," Delury said. "The basis of his legitimacy domestically has to do with these other, non-military things."

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