This week’s historic summit between the leaders of North and South Korea has been punctuated by several unprecedented signs of an improved relationship between the two deeply divided nations.
In addition to announced plans for both sides to sign a peace treaty officially ending the Korean War and committing to denuclearizing the peninsula, the meeting in South Korea has also reportedly revealed a different side of Kim Jong Un.
As the Seattle Times reported, the oppressive North Korean dictator has been presented through propaganda aimed at his own citizens as a superhero capable of feats such as controlling nature and sinking 11 holes-in-one during a single round of golf.
According to reports from this week’s meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, however, Kim is apparently willing to show uncharacteristic vulnerability in what the rest of the world hopes are genuine steps toward an end to aggression from the north.
He admitted to Moon that he was “embarrassed” about the state of North Korea’s transportation system and other infrastructure, BBC reported. The revelation came after Moon expressed an interest in visiting and climbing the culturally significant Mount Paektu.
While North Korea has previously touted its progress in establishing a new rail line to the mountain’s peak, analysts see Kim’s comment as a tacit confession the effort has stalled.
“I feel embarrassed about the poor transit infrastructure,” Kim reportedly said.
A spokesman for the South Korean president confirmed Kim’s general comments about the state of North Korean transit, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Yoon Young-chan said that Kim expressed concern that his South Korean counterpart would be uncomfortable traveling on the roads during his visit to the north.
Kim also delighted in the bullet trains crisscrossing South Korea, telling Moon that delegates sent to PyeongChang for the 2018 Winter Olympics came back with similar positive reviews of the infrastructure.
Moon reportedly responded with a nod toward improved relations between the Koreas, telling Kim that his citizens would be able to enjoy the high-speed railways if the two countries establish closer diplomatic ties.
In another unusual acknowledgment, Kim reportedly recognized defectors from his country as among those paying close attention to the potentially paradigm-shifting summit.
North Korean defectors have historically been treated as traitors, and, in some cases, their families have been punished for their actions.
Kim reportedly cited “displaced people, defectors and residents of the island of Yeonpyeong” as groups with a stake in the outcome of the ongoing talks.
Yeonpyeong is a South Korean island attacked by the north in 2010 by Kim’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il.
While much of the world has seen this dramatically different representation of a reclusive leader who was at the center of serious nuclear-attack concerns in Hawaii just months ago, it is likely those living under his brutal regime have not heard any potentially unflattering details.
Instead of broadcasting the summit between Kim and Moon, North Korean state media reportedly aired historical programming and other government propaganda.
Analysts say state TV must present Kim without flaws, so the possibility of embarrassment associated with live coverage of this or any other event is generally not permitted.
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