Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ripples of the Singapore Summit

And the Trump-Kim Summit will forever be known as "The Singapore Summit". 

The meeting is historic, even if the significance of the agreement forged is still pending the judgement of history.

Here are two news articles on the ripples from the Summit.

Trump-Kim summit a PR coup for Singapore; global publicity worth over S$200 million, experts say

14 June, 2018

SINGAPORE — As images of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un strolling by revellers at a rooftop bar the night before an unprecedented meeting with President Donald Trump circulated around social media sites, US citizens started asking: "Where is Singapore?"

Singapore, which hosted the nuclear talks earlier this week, was the most searched term on internet search engine Google in the United States on Monday with over 2 million hits.

Related searches during those 24 hours included "Where is Singapore", "Singapore summit" and "time in Singapore".

Blanket media coverage on Monday (June 11) included Mr Kim's surprise tour of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel and its surrounding gardens, and the first hours of the meeting with Mr Trump in the resort island of Sentosa.

Singapore said it spent around S$20 million on the summit, a figure that drew the ire of some citizens. However, marketing experts say the coverage generated from the event could be worth more than 10 times that.

"It places Singapore on the map for international audiences," said Mr Oliver Chong, executive director, communications and marketing capability at Singapore Tourism Board.

Tourism contributes around 4 per cent to Singapore's GDP per annum. Visitor arrivals hit a record 17.4 million last year boosted by China, its top market, and India.

But just months ago, lifestyle magazine Time Out ranked Singapore among the world's least exciting cities.

Mr Andrew Darling, CEO and founder of communications agency West Pier Ventures, said it would cost more than S$200 million to generate the kind of publicity Singapore has received so far by hosting the summit.

Media intelligence firm Meltwater said the coverage over the three days around the summit equated to US$270 million (S$360) of advertising, while the month leading up to it was worth US$767 million.

"The Trump-Kim Summit has arguably been the single most important event that brought Singapore to the attention of most people around the world," said Mr Jason Tan of media advertising agency Zenith Singapore.

He added: "For many Asians, Singapore as the choice of destination reinforces our image as an efficient and safe country. For Americans who might not be as familiar with Asia, the summit definitely brought Singapore into the global spotlight."

Still, even some who should know better struggled to accurately place Singapore - known as the Little Red Dot in reference to its depiction on a map.

The US State Department mistakenly made Singapore a part of neighbouring Malaysia in a note issued in connection with the summit, drawing a slew of snide comments on social media. 


Kim's propaganda machine goes into hyperdrive over Trump meeting

14 June, 2018

SINGAPORE — When Mr Kim Jong-un made his first official trip outside North Korea in March, he slipped into China aboard an armoured train and his countrymen didn't learn about it until he was safely home. Mr Kim's excursion to meet with US President Donald Trump was a much different story.

During Mr Kim's three days in Singapore, North Korean state media trumpeted daily images never before seen in Pyongyang. There on the front page of the ruling party's flagship newspaper was Mr Kim touring monuments to capitalism, stepping out of a Chinese jet and smiling while shaking hands with the "imperialist" US president.

The propaganda push not only signalled Mr Kim's new confidence on the world stage after a series of diplomatic wins, it also conveyed a desire for greater openness and economic development.

In the past, North Korean leaders had avoided images like the borrowed jet — a sign of the country's industrial weakness — or casual interactions with US officials, which undercuts decades of official animosity.

Moreover, state media usually refrains from reporting on leaders' excursions until they had returned home, minimizing the chances of any palace intrigue in Pyongyang. Even coverage of Mr Kim's April summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in was delayed, barring one report saying he had left the capital.

"It's like openly declaring he's the leader of a normal state and he's got the confidence to do so," said Mr Ahn Chan-il, who defected from North Korea in 1979 and is now head of the World Institute for North Korea Studies. "It doesn't only herald Kim's decision to open up the economy, but also his determination that he, from now on, will let everyone know his whereabouts without feeling too worried of his safety."

Images from Mr Kim's summit with Mr Trump were plastered across more than three pages of Wednesday's (June 13) state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper, which was almost exclusively devoted to the landmark meeting. There were photos of Mr Kim and Mr Trump — whom the same newspaper mocked as a "dotard" last year — standing in front of their national flags, lunching, taking a stroll and, perhaps most interestingly, smiling with each other.

One picture even showed Mr Kim shaking hands with National Security Adviser John Bolton, a former top US arms-control official who North Korean media once described as "human scum and a bloodsucker." Mr Kim's vice foreign minister cited Mr Bolton's remarks calling for the rapid removal and destruction of North Korea's nuclear weapons in a statement last month threatening to cancel talks.

The image campaign was probably coordinated by Ms Kim Yo-jong, Mr Kim's sister and a senior figure — if not head — of North Korea's propaganda department, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. She has been credited with carefully guarding her brother's image: When Mr Kim was about to sign a statement with Mr Trump's signature-emblazoned pen, Ms Kim Yo-jung produced another pen from her pocket for him to use.

"His sister does seem to be a key player in remaking this international image and she's doing very well," said Mr Martyn Williams, who is editor of San Francisco-based and has covered tech and media in the country for about a decade. "Kim's goal is to rebuild the economy and this shows him working towards that, so it's still pursuing a domestic propaganda agenda."

The effort at image-making coincides with Mr Kim's explosion onto the world stage, after spending his first six years in power never leaving North Korea. Since March, Mr Kim has visited China twice, met Mr Moon on their militarised border and spoken for the first time to groups of foreign reporters.

North Korea's travelling media delegation — dressed in matching black — followed Mr Kim through Singapore documenting throngs of fascinated onlookers during an impromptu late-night tour to inspect examples of the glimmering city-state's economic development. At the Marina Bay Sands resort, regime cameramen rushed to film a waiting crowd of press and locals in the lobby before turning their lenses on Mr Kim's arriving limousine.

Attempts by Bloomberg News to engage the North Korean reporters were rebuffed, although they did become useful for another reason. The close coordination between the Pyongyang delegation and its travelling press meant that when the North Korean journalists sprang into action, it signalled to the rest of the media pack that Mr Kim was about to make a move.

Hours later, their images would be published in Rodong Sinmun, posted in government buildings and in Pyongyang metro stations, where passengers gathered to read of their leader's exploits in foreign lands.

"While it's propaganda, it has a clear message that the newspaper will start to report any rapid changes in the system faster and more properly," said Mr Ahn, of the World Institute for North Korea Studies. "Now he's got that confidence after meeting the world's strongest leader." 


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