North Koreans share expectations on U.S.-North Korea summit

2018 U.S.-North Korea summit. Image: The Straits Times

With all eyes on the first U.S.-North Korea summit, many North Korean residents appear to have high expectations that the talks will be successful and help improve their standard of living. Daily NK asked several of its sources in North Korea to ask residents about their thoughts ahead of the summit.

 “The people will only believe it when they see it. As of now, no one knows (what will happen in the future), but people hope the summit goes well and leads to a revitalized economy,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on June 11.

The source, who first heard of the talks through covert access to foreign television, was hopeful for an end-of-war declaration and the signing of a peace treaty. “Rumors that the armistice will turn into a declaration and eventually become a peace treaty are circulating in North Korea. People are anticipating that such a development will allow them to have a better life, and they are hoping that everything works out,” he said.

A Pyongyang-based source added that with the inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea summits taking place in succession, expectations of reunification are increasing among the people.

“More residents are becoming hopeful of reunification because of the Panmunjeom and US-North Korea talks. Some are looking forward to the summit because they believe ‘there will be a fruitful dialogue if the U.S. is willing to take a resolute step, just as North Korea has made the bold decision to demolish its nuclear facilities,’” she said.

Another source in Pyongyang added, “People want the two Koreas to be reunified because it will first and foremost help them to make ends meet. The development of our (North Korean) economy is most important because we cannot continue to live like this.” The widespread sentiment for reunification in North Korea is being interpreted as related to the problem of overcoming present economic difficulties.

However, North Korean residents still have negative perceptions toward the United States and refer to their historical foe as a ‘sworn enemy’. Anti-American ideology remains deeply rooted in North Korea.

“In North Korea, most people refer to Trump as ‘dotard Trump’ and the United States as ‘sworn enemies,’” a source in North Pyongan Province explained, adding that residents were surprised by the news that Kim would engage in dialogue with Trump, but still believe they should ‘have faith in the General (Kim Jong Un).

“Our people call Trump the ‘dotard president’ and have negative attitudes toward him because he changes his stance so often.” “After trade executives spread the news that the U.S. would not participate in the summit, more people are saying, ‘the United States cannot be trusted,’” a separate source in Pyongyang noted.

“Some residents are saying that this was all part of ‘America’s scheme’ and that ‘we should not have our hopes up.’ The older residents have a profound distrust of the U.S. because they hold deeper grudges against them and were also subject to intense anti-American propaganda.”

Meanwhile, the additional Pyongyang-based source said that irrespective of the summit, anti-American slogans are being used in North Korea due to the country’s “Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month” of June.

“On an enterprise bulletin board near Pyongyang, there was a post entitled ‘Learning is also a battle,’ which read: ‘We commend [a particular individual] for achieving excellent results in learning by vowing to exact thousands-fold revenge against the conspiracies of the Americans.’ The (negative) attitudes toward the U.S. have not changed, as it is widely believed that the U.S. was responsible for the division of the Korean Peninsula and does not want reunification,” the source explained.

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