Kim Jong Un’s Hollywood Makeover Highlights New Propaganda Push


When the going gets tough for Kim Jong Un, his regime likes to turn its TV cameras on the military, with glossy productions showcasing the missiles and manpower that North Korea tells the masses are protecting the nation.

Since taking power a decade ago, Kim has brought new looks to state television, including drone footage, computer graphics, music video-style cuts and made-for-TV moments. This has helped him rally support for the state as it battles chronic food shortages and an anemic economy made even weaker by international sanctions imposed as punishment for testing nuclear bombs and missiles, some potentially capable of striking America and its allies. 

In his most recent state TV spectacle, for a weapons test on March 24, Kim is seen in dark sunglasses and a black leather jacket apparently ordering his army — in slow motion — to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile. This was released eight days after a failed ballistic missile launch near Pyongyang’s international airport. South Korea said the North doctored the video to blend these two launches into one seemingly successful test for propaganda purposes.

Kim’s propaganda machine is likely gearing up for more headline events later this month, including a possible military parade for the anniversary of the founding of its army on April 25. Military parades have previously been occasions to show off hardware to attack America’s allies in Asia and the U.S. mainland. Experts also warn that the state could conduct its first nuclear-bomb test since 2017.

“Slick videos like the ICBM test footage translate into the credibility of the information it portrays,” said Kang Mi-jin, a North Korean defector who runs a company in South Korea that tracks the economy of her former home.


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