Maybe he realized he need a makeover.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, a man who spent most of 2017 threatening to engulf the world in a nuclear war, appears to be trying to soften his image as 2018 dawns.
If a kinder, gentler Kim might be too much to hope for, at least a sane, professional Kim might be in the works.
And it’s a good bet the world has President Donald Trump to thank for it.
As the U.K. Daily Mail pointed out in a piece published Jan. 2, Kim a “has been pictured in a Western-style grey suit and tie after ditching his father’s trademark outfits, prompting speculation he is trying to soften his image.”
And it’s not just in appearances — the dictator’s behavior is changing radically, too. The new look comes as Pyongyang’s pariah regime is also putting new feelers out to the outside world. Kim has reached out to South Korea about cross-border communications, for instance.
On Tuesday, the two Koreas announced that the North would be sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in February in PyeongChang, South Korea, according to NBC.
So, after last year’s increasingly hostile exchange of insults with Trump, Kim might now be trying to convince the world he’s not the utterly deranged lunatic he’s simply been pretending to be all this time.
“Kim Jong-Un’s silver Western-style suit and horn-rimmed glasses, as well as the fact that he was not wearing a badge of his grandfather and father, shows his confidence and stability,” Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told Agence France-Presse.
“It signals that he is in control.”
Sure, it might signal that. But it more likely signals that Kim is finally getting the idea that tin-pot despots like himself (and the murderous mullahs in Iran, and the terrorist savages of the various Middle East terrorist factions) can no longer count on the world giving in to their tantrums.
Kim came to power in 2011. At that time, the United States was led by President Barack Obama, whose foreign policy of appeasement (implemented by his then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) was just starting to take root.
The young dictator-in-training might be forgiven for thinking that his adolescent outbursts were going to keep on being tolerated by a frightened world.
But as he’s surely learned over the past year – and particularly over the past month – that the Trump White House is a far cry from the nursery school days of the Obama administration.
As CNN reported Monday, the Seventh Fleet is not only still an ominous presence for Kim in the waters off the Korean Peninsula, it’s boosting its attack powers.
At the White House, of course, Trump has shown no signs of backing away from Kim’s threats.
Given those realities, and the fortuitous approach of the Winter Olympics bringing an international stage only 50 miles from his southern border, Kim no doubt thinks the new year brings a new chance to get himself out of the box his nuclear ambitions have put him in.
Not everyone is convinced, of course.
“There has been a lot of speculation that he is trying to make North Korea look more modern and connected. His father’s Mao suits looked ridiculous in the 21st century,” Robert Kelly, a political science professor at South Korea’s Pusan National University, told The New York Times.
“It’s a flimflam… Just a show.”
Probably. But it’s still a show that’s preferable to a froth-mouthed lunatic threatening the world with nuclear holocaust, or threatening to bring death down on his own people.
And for that makeover, the world can likely thank Donald Trump.
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