North Koreans express disappointment over lack of summit agreement

Kim Jong Un returns to Pyongyang following the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi
Kim Jong Un returns to Pyongyang following the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi. Image: Rodong Sinmun

The Rodong Sinmun and other North Korean news outlets are not reporting that the second US-DPRK summit ended without an agreement. However, reports from inside the country suggest that news of the failure of the summit is spreading quickly.

The Rodong Sinmun published reports from February 28 to March 5 putting a positive spin on the summit’s historical meaning, global interest in the summit and the mutual affinity the two leaders had for each other.

The publication reported on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s arrival back in North Korea saying only “Our Dear Great Leader and Comrade has returned after a successful second summit between the DPRK and the US and a [official state] visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” The Rodong Sinmun did not inform North Koreans that the summit ended without agreement.

North Koreans, however, have focused on the fact that no promises were made about the lifting of sanctions or economic support in the reports. Moreover, Chinese traders have alerted many to the fact that the summit ended in nothing for North Korea.

“People expected that the economic sanctions would be lifted through the leader’s visit to Vietnam to meet with America,” said a South Pyongan Province-based source on March 5. “Now, days after the summit has ended, however, there’s been no news that they will, so people think the summit didn’t go that well.”

As news of the wide gap in disagreement between the US and North Korea has spread, some people are expressing their disappointment in the lack of results while others caution that such negotiations take time and expressed hope for another summit.

“There are people who hoped for a major achievement through the summit given the emphasis on the leader’s trip abroad, while others, like me, thought that nothing much would change,” said a source in North Hamgyong Province. “I think that if the two sides meet frequently, then change will happen eventually.”

“Doing deals on an individual level is hard, so it’s hard to expect that deals will be easily made with the US,” he continued, expressing the general attitude toward the summit in North Korea. “People also have a hard time thinking that the summit has much to do with them.”

The Rodong Sinmun has not published articles critical of President Donald Trump, a point that locals have highlighted to suggest that the summit atmosphere was good. They also pointed to the fact that the two sides promised to meet again.

“News outlets told us that another summit was promised by the two sides so I understand they will meet again,” said a source in Ryanggang Province. “People here think that the US can’t be trusted, however, so nobody thinks the negotiations will be easy.”

“The sanctions need to be lifted quickly to ensure trading companies and the markets don’t collapse,” said the source. “Smuggling is too susceptible to Chinese schemes and is not a safe bet going forward.”