Kim Jong Un's historic peace talks were broadcast everywhere except North Korea -- here's why he keeps his people in the dark

Korean Central Television via BBC Monitoring/TwitterThis is what North Korean TV looked like on the day of the inter-Korean summit.
  • Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in met for historic talks on Friday and pledged to denuclearise and strive for peace.
  • But North Korean TV has broadcast everything but footage of the inter-Korean summit.
  • The country doesn’t like broadcasting live events in case something goes wrong. It wants to make sure Kim looks good before airing anything.

Friday’s inter-Korean summit is being broadcast live everywhere around the world – except North Korea.

TV channels including the BBC, CNN, South Korea’s Seoul Broadcasting System, China’s state-run CCTV News, and Japan’s NHK, all showed images of Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in meeting.

Following their historic talks, the leaders pledged to pursue signing a peace treaty, and announced their intention to work toward denuclearization.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central Television showed at 3 p.m. on Friday images of snow-peaked mountains, lakes, and a North Korean flag, and made no mention of the summit in its 5 p.m. news bulletin, BBC Monitoring reported.

In fact, North Korean state TV appeared to show everything but the inter-Korean summit. It broadcast on Friday afternoon a film about former leader Kim Jong Il’s life and a bulletin about China-North Korea relations, said NK News, a news site analysing life in North Korea.

The only summit-related coverage in North Korea were reports from the state-run Korean Central News Agency and Rodung Sinmun newspaper that Kim had left Pyongyang for the Panmunjom truce village for a meeting and dinner with Moon.

Despite the gravity of the event, the media blackout is not surprising. North Korea doesn’t like to screen live footage of events that may jeopardise how citizens view the country, experts said.

Despite sending athletes, cheerleaders, and senior government officials to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics earlier this year, the country didn’t screen any of the events live in case something unpredictable happened or its citizens ended up envying life in the South.

Euan Graham, international security director at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, told Business Insider:

“The lack of broadcast in North Korea is not a surprise – it was the same for the Winter Olympics.

“North Korean media will cut and splice to show Kim in the most favourable light, and ideally in a superior position to his southern counterpart.”

Hazel Smith, a professorial research associate at London’s SOAS who previously lived in North Korea, similarly told BI:

“I’m not surprised it’s not been shown live, although it has been announced that it was going to happen.

“The North Korean state will want to control the message so they will show the bits that enhance the message they want to get across to their people – definitely they will want to portray KJU as ‘in charge.'”

Korea summitKorea Summit Press Pool/Getty ImagesKim and Moon hugging at the summit.

Jean H. Lee, a fellow with the Wilson Center and a former Associated Press correspondent in Pyongyang, also told CNBC earlier this year: “They don’t like the unpredictability of live broadcasts, except for events that are completely scripted, like military parades.”

Although Friday’s summit was planned down carefully, Kim veered off-script a few times – including taking Moon’s hand to step on North Korean soil.

These spontaneous moments are likely to be closely analysed by US officials, who are preparing an upcoming summit between the North Korean dictator and Donald Trump, who has tended not to follow planned protocol and procedures.


Click here for Business Insider’s full coverage of the inter-Korean summit.

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