In Pyongyang’s telling of the Korean War, the United States, an imperialist nation on a quest for world domination, invaded North Korea on June 25, 1950, and inflicted untold chaos and suffering. As former North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Il Sung wrote in 1981 in his account of the war, the Americans were out “to make the Korean people their slaves and turn Korea into their colony.”
As is well known, the actual version of events unfolded quite differently. Following a series of border skirmishes, North Korea invaded South Korea, a move the United Nations immediately condemned. After the UN called for member states to come to Seoul’s defense, the United States dispatched air and naval forces to the peninsula. But to this day, North Korean life is centered around the other version of reality. Citizens are called upon to protect the nation at all times against the “evil Americans.” Children’s math lessons include counting figures representing dead U.S. Marines. And all across North Korea, billboards and posters deliver the message that the United States will soon invade North Korea “once again.”
As the Trump administration approaches the June 12 summit, it must remember that what keeps current Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in power is not simply nuclear weapons but also the powerful narrative that is spun to keep the North Korean people from rebelling. From the perspective of the North Korean regime, propaganda plays a large role in the Kim family’s survival. Its members have held on to power for seven decades largely because of their airtight control on information. This has enabled the Kims to enforce their own version of history in support of their draconian policies. North Korea's Songun, or military-first, system compels the people to devote their time and resources to building up the military in case of a U.S. attack. Because of its aggressive conscription effort, North Korea now has the world’s fourth-largest standing army. To keep everyone in line in pursuit
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