North Korea’s About-Face? It’s a Return to Form.

North Korea’s About-Face? It’s a Return to Form.


Rebuffing Obama, too

President Barack Obama’s approach to North Korea included steadily tightening economic pressure, while allowing American diplomats to quietly meet with their North Korean counterparts.

That resulted in a deal, announced in February 2012, in which North Korea was to halt operations at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and permit inspectors to verify that it had suspended its nuclear and missile programs. The United States, in return, pledged to offer food aid to North Korea. The deal raised hopes that Mr. Kim, then the country’s new leader, was open to working with the West to reduce tensions.

But within a month North Korea threatened to launch a satellite, killing the agreement.

Band on the run

In 2015, Kim Jong-un’s favorite pop band was supposed to travel to China for its first performance outside the country. The Moranbong Band was known for performing Western pop songs and North Korean revolutionary standards in tight dresses and high heels, and its roughly 20 members were reportedly handpicked by Mr. Kim.

But hours before they were to perform, the band abruptly left Beijing. North Korea did not explain the reason for the musicians’ departure, and the episode reinforced perceptions about the unpredictable nature of the country’s young leader.

Rocky road to Olympic harmony

Mr. Kim’s recent diplomatic outreach kicked into high gear in February of this year during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. But the road to thawing relations with its archenemy, South Korea, was rocky.

Weeks before the Olympics, the North canceled a joint cultural event it had planned to hold with South Korean K-pop bands, blaming “insulting” South Korean news coverage of its participation in the Winter Olympics.



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