PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA
North Korea is stepping up a new loyalty campaign as leader Kim Jong Un prepares for his second summit with President Donald Trump.
The campaign began last month with the introduction of a song in praise of the nations flag.
A video now being aired on state-run television to promote the song, called Our National Flag, shows repeated images of the flag being raised at international sports competitions and being formed by a sea of people holding up colored lengths of cloth at a parade and rally on Kim Il Sung Square. Other images show recent improvements in the economy and standard of living, a reflection of a current government policy shift that focuses on development and prosperity.
A different tone
The video is a departure from the tone of the propaganda that dominated just two years ago, when tensions with Washington were escalating and the focus was on North Koreas successful missile tests.
In the summer of 2017, the countrys most popular musical group, the all-female Moranbong Band, released The Song of the Hwasong Rocket to commemorate the successful launch of North Koreas first intercontinental ballistic missile. They also performed at concerts with big-screen images of the ICBM behind them.
The new video incorporates imagery from the most recent mass games event, which was staged last September to mark the countrys 70th anniversary. It briefly shows troops at attention during a military parade and fighter jets creating contrails in the national colors of blue, red and white. But it also is interspersed with shots of civilians marching at the same parade, clips of new high-rise apartments in the capital, Pyongyang, fireworks displays and rows of students in their school uniforms.
Lyrics to Our National Flag have been distributed widely. Large posters showing the flag and the lyrics are being displayed in factories.
The song opens with the lines, As we watch our blue-red banner flying sky high, our hearts are bursting with the blood of patriotism. We feel the breath of our nation as the flag strongly flaps in the wind. The flag as important as life carries the fate of our people. We will love the shining flag of our nation. Please fly until the end of this world.
A note above one poster seen by The Associated Press urged workers at the Kim Jong Suk Textile Factory in Pyongyang to study the song closely.
Coming after years of what had seemed to be deepening hostility, Kims outreach to Washington and his Chinese and South Korean neighbors presents a bit of a conundrum for North Koreas propaganda chiefs.
Few details of Kims negotiations with Trump over the future of North Koreas nuclear arsenal have been made public in the North. The official media have instead focused on how Kim has been welcomed on the world stage and asserted that he is leading the way to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
But the nationalist call for unity and the less-militaristic message of the new video are in keeping with an effort in North Korea to dial back its public displays of overtly anti-U.S. propaganda and redirect attention to Kims current priority of mobilizing the entire country behind improving the economy.
Kim unveiled that shift in his New Years address last year, opening the door to a stunning series of summits with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and, last June, with Trump in Singapore.
Kim has since made some big strides with Beijing and Seoul toward undercutting support for the U.S.-backed sanctions that have constrained his development plans.
Though little progress has been made on Washingtons main concern, denuclearization, Trump announced during his State of the Union address that he will meet Kim again in Vietnam on Feb. 27-28.