The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

North Korean media covers Trump’s inauguration with brief mention on page 6, two days late

President Trump celebrates after his inauguration on Jan. 20. (/Carlos Barria/Reuters)
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Generally speaking, North Korean state media isn’t the best outlet to read if you want to keep up on international events. The Hermit Kingdom’s official news outlets offer a limited, supreme-leader-heavy view of the world (sample headline: “Kim Jong Un’s Work Posted by Regional Body on Website”), and when they cover events outside their borders, the publications are often a few days late to the news — if they cover it at all.

But the inauguration of President Trump was big enough news in Pyongyang this past weekend to find a small mention in the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, on Sunday. And the account was unusually swift by North Korean media standards — running just two days after the actual event.

“Donald Trump was inaugurated as the U.S. president,” the article’s headline read. The brief story ran on page 6 of the newspaper and consisted of two sentences: “In the United States, Republican Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States on the 20th. The inauguration ceremony was held in Washington.”

As slight as it may seem, the report is relatively quick work by North Korean media standards. In the aftermath of November’s election, it took more than a week for North Korean state media to mention Trump's victory — and even then it was a passing reference in a commentary calling for the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

North Korea-watching website NK News noted that many incoming U.S. presidents received terse coverage of their inaugurations in Pyongyang’s state media. In 2000, George W. Bush’s inauguration was covered three days after the event, though Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration was covered just one day later.

NK News also noted a difference with coverage of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration in 2012; an article that featured a relatively lengthy discussion of Putin’s address was published on the same day as the inauguration.

In contrast to the sometimes bellicose language it used to describe Obama and Hillary Clinton, North Korean state media generally stayed away from directly discussing Trump during the campaign season and at points offered praise for the Republican candidate. South Korean analysts have suggested that North Korea is waiting to see what the new administration’s policies on North Korea will be before it makes its stance on Trump known.

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