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Despite warming ties, North Korean propaganda still lambastes Americans
NKOREA US NY112 5702172
Brian Myers, a professor at Dongseo University, reads the a North Korean book at the a document center run by the South Korean Unification Ministry in Seoul, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2007. Myers returned to the South Korea in 2001 to teach and is now writing a book on North Korean propaganda. - photo by Associated Press
    SEOUL, South Korea — President Bush wrote a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The North even thanked the U.S. Navy last month for helping it end a high-seas standoff with Somali pirates.
    Relations between the longtime foes are warming due to progress on curbing the North’s nuclear weapons program — but you would never know it from reading the propaganda being served daily to North Korea’s isolated citizenry.
    In a typical example published in the October issue of the North Korean artist’s union journal, a sinister-looking American wearing sunglasses lurks in the background as a South Korean child erupts in tears at being taken for adoption. ‘‘Mother, I don’t want to go!’’ the child cries, which portrays the adoption as tantamount to selling a child into slavery.
    In the communist nation’s main Chollima magazine from that month, an article warns readers that ‘‘the Americans’ anti-North Korean activities are more intense than ever.’’
    The unceasing tide of hatred toward the U.S. in North Korea’s state-run media shows Pyongyang is not ready for normal relations with Washington, said Brian Myers, an American scholar who is an expert on North Korean propaganda.
    ‘‘If North Korea was serious about wanting better relations with the United States, it would be preparing the public for different relations,’’ said Myers, a professor at Dongseo University in the southern port city of Busan. ‘‘Far from claiming things are better, they say things are never worse.’’
    North Korea this year has gone the further than ever to scale back its nuclear ambitions, even inviting U.S. experts to oversee work to disable its main nuclear facility so that it cannot easily resume production of plutonium for bombs.
    At talks on the North’s atomic weapons, the U.S. has agreed to start discussing how to normalize relations with the country that has been Washington’s enemy since its 1950 surprise attack against American-allied South Korea that started the Korean War.
    Progress is even being made on the cultural front, with the New York Philharmonic set to perform next year in Pyongyang.
    Such moves will be portrayed in North Korean propaganda as gestures of supplication made to Kim, Myers said.
    ‘‘When any foreigner goes to Pyongyang, it’s interpreted by the media as either a pilgrimage or a form of tribute,’’ he said. ‘‘It will be child’s play for the official media to present their goal as being to entertain Kim Jong Il.’’
    Myers regularly reads North Korean propaganda at a document center in downtown Seoul run by the South Korean Unification Ministry. Distributing North Korean media is illegal in the South, but the center receives newspapers, books and other publications from North Korea for research use.
    Since the recent improvement in U.S.-North Korean relations, Myers said he had noted fewer anti-American tirades in North Korean media. They appear to be avoiding direct vilification of the U.S. administration and Bush, which it once labeled an ‘‘imbecile.’’
    But Myers dismissed that shift as superficial, noting the country is not pulling any rhetorical punches against Washington.
    For example, Myers cited an article in the country’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper from Nov. 22 stating: ‘‘Controlling the world remains America’s strategic goal and ambition and every day American pursues it more intensively.’’
    In June, the North published an anthology with a story purporting to be a North Korean soldier’s memories of the American crew held for 11 months after the USS Pueblo was captured on an 1968 spy mission.
    Myers said the writer goes on about the ugliness, filth and ‘‘greasy’’ stench of the Americans in contrast to the pure Koreans.
    When the captives are released, the story says a snowstorm raged in Pyongyang ‘‘as if intent on sweeping the country clean, free of all the filthy, ugly, revolting traces’’ left behind by the Yankees, according to Myers.
    Myers argued that Kim’s regime would lose its justification for remaining in power if its main American enemy suddenly became an ally. All of North Korea’s media emphasizes Kim’s tireless defense against outside threats, he noted, used to deflect criticism for the hardship the impoverished people there suffer.
    ‘‘His legitimacy derives exclusively from a confrontational relationship with the United States,’’ Myers said. ‘‘The day they open a U.S. Embassy in Pyongyang is the day they cease to be the prouder Korea and simply become the poorer Korea.’’

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