North Korean Media Diplomacy: From Rocket Man to the Red Carpet

Patricia Riley, Jeeyun (Sophia) Baik, Nathaniel Coilean Curran, Hyun Tae (Calvin Kim

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingChapter in an edited book (as author)Academic research


North Korea began its metamorphosis from a desperately poor “Hermit Kingdom” in 2011 and evolved into a major proliferator of nuclear weapons by 2017. As the United States and its allies demanded a halt to its missile testing, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump began tossing word grenades with an intensity that alarmed many around the world. In 2018, Kim abruptly went on a “charm offensive”: he sent his sister to the Olympics, flattered Trump, attended several peace summits, and claimed he halted missile production. This study analyzes the impact of this strategic communication plan by content analyzing conversations on the Twitter platform for both threat and risk assessments, and by examining the networks of message amplification. The cleaned data set included 3377 tweets for analysis. Trump and his supporters dominated this mediascape by controlling the volume of messages, however, Kim’s media diplomacy efforts succeeded in shifting the global conversation to the new, less threatening Kim. His shift in strategic communication was seen by many as brilliant theater as the statesman-like drama of the summit lowered the perceived risk of his missile program while he continued to grow his arsenal of nuclear weapons. Now that is diplomacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDiplomatic and Mediated Arguments in the North Korean Crisis
PublisherPalgrave Macmillian
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


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