Talking With the 'Hermit Regime'| An Unlikely Seducer: Kim Jong-un’s Charm Offensive From the PyeongChang Winter Olympics Until the Trump–Kim Summit

Julia Sonnevend, Youngrim Kim


This article analyzes North Korea’s image transformation in 2018 through the concept of charm offensive. A charm offensive is a diplomatic strategy in which countries aim to shift a problematic international image by harnessing their national leader’s personal magnetism to the task. We examine North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s charm offensive in the American and South Korean press from his 2018 New Year Day’s Address until his meeting with the U.S. President on June 12, 2018. During these six months, Kim used various methods to charm his audience, from enlisting family members to crossing the demilitarized zone to even participating in a selfie. In return, in President Trump’s communication he was miraculously transformed from a “little rocket man” to an “honorable” leader. Through thematic analysis of the press coverage, we demonstrate that both American and South Korean journalists were transfixed by Kim’s conciliatory gestures, but “charm offensive” was a term and mindset favored only by American journalists.


charm offensive, North Korea, Kim Jong-un, foreign affairs, image makeover

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