AP

Mirroring grandfather, Kim rides the rails to Trump summit

Feb 26, 2019, 5:28 AM

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — For his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un opted to go retro — riding the rails like his grandfather decades before.

Kim’s decision to take the train all the way across China was probably prompted at least in part by security considerations— his train is built like a tank and almost as slow. But it also marks a major attempt at showmanship designed to bring back memories of North Korean “eternal president” Kim Il Sung’s many travels by railroad.

Kim Jong Un’s journey aboard his forest green train from Pyongyang to the Vietnamese border town of Dong Dang took more than two and a half days. That’s longer than it took Trump to fly halfway around the world, even with Air Force One stopping for fuel along the way.

But the overland passage was a marked upgrade in optics from Kim’s first summit with Trump, in Singapore last June.

For that trip, Kim traveled aboard an Air China Boeing 747, meaning the first images from that history-making arrival showed him disembarking from an American-made plane emblazoned with a Chinese flag.

This time around, when Kim stepped down early Tuesday from his distinctive yellow-trimmed train, he was greeted with a bouquet of flowers on a patterned red carpet lined with a Vietnamese honor guard and the five-pointed communist-starred flags of North Korea and Vietnam. He then switched to a black limousine for the final drive to Hanoi.

That’s a much more on-message scene for the North Koreans, who want their home audience to see Kim as the man in charge.

But it’s also familiar on another level.

North Koreans grow up seeing images of Kim’s grandfather traveling by train, which he took to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, among other places, including Vietnam in 1964.

A mock-up of a car from the train is on permanent display at the mausoleum where Kim Il Sung and his son, late leader Kim Jong Il, lie in state, along with maps that light up to show the routes he took on his travels.

Inside the car is a desk used by the leaders, along with chairs and a sofa. Guides explain that the carriage was used as a mobile office — proof, they insist, the leaders worked tirelessly for the people.

Kim Jong Il, who was Kim Jong Un’s father, was known to have hated flying and traveled by train on several trips to China. He is said to have fitted his train out to accommodate lavish parties and karaoke sessions.

During his father’s rule, trips abroad were often not reported for days after they were over, if at all.

But that appears to be changing, also suggesting the importance in the minds of the North’s propagandists of getting their own visuals out quickly to the nation.

It took North Korean state media less than half a day from the time his train was spotted crossing the border into China to report that Kim was onboard. Images released by the official Korean Central News Agency showed him inspecting an honor guard in Pyongyang and waving from the train.

Kim’s exact overseas travel plans are routinely kept secret for security reasons. His train appears to have bypassed the busy Chinese capital, Beijing, and few images have trickled out since The Associated Press and others witnessed it crossing into the Chinese border city of Dandong on Saturday evening. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported seeing his train in the central Chinese town of Changsha on Monday.

A Japanese TV network caught another candid moment — early morning shots of Kim, a well-known chain smoker, puffing away while on a stop in Nanning.
___
Talmadge is the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief. Schreck is AP’s Asia Pacific news director. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter: @EricTalmadge and @adamschreck

Today’s Top Stories

AP

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...
ALI ABDUL-HASSAN and ABBY SEWELL Associated Press

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
7 days ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
9 days ago
The U.S. Coast Guard ship Bernard C. Webber, leaves the coast guard base, Monday, July 19, 2021, in...
Associated Press

‘Miracle’: Missing cruise ship passenger found OK in water

The U.S. Coast Guard says a passenger who went overboard from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico was rescued on Thanksgiving after likely being in the water for hours.
10 days ago
FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
11 days ago
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart ...
The Associated Press

Walmart shooter left ‘death note,’ bought gun day of killing

According to authorities in Virginia, the Walmart shooter bought his gun just hours prior to killing six employees.
11 days ago
Dry lakebed...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawsuit looms over tiny fish in drought-stricken West

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delayed decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week […]
13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Mirroring grandfather, Kim rides the rails to Trump summit