North Koreans endure sleepless nights and give up alcohol during Kim's trip to Hanoi

Nicola Smith

North Koreans are pining for their leader and enduring sleepless nights during his week-long trip to Vietnam, if the reclusive country’s state-controlled media is to be believed. 

Pictures from Hanoi showing Kim’s red-carpet treatment and excited crowds lining the streets of the Vietnamese capital to wave North Korean flags at his passing convoy are playing out well in a state that already portrays its leader and his ancestors as a living deities. 

North Korea’s flagship state newspaper Rodong Sinmun devoted its front and second pages on Wednesday to pictures of Kim surrounded by welcoming throngs, acting statesman-like with his chief aides, and greeting cheering children of North Korean embassy staff. 

Meanwhile, in Pyongyang, gushing televised vox-pops with city residents have conveniently revealed a longing for their “great leader” to return and a renewed desire to serve him. 

“We can’t survive even for a moment without our respected Marshal,” said Kim Song Suk, a public service worker on a crowded tram. “We miss him so much since we heard the news of him travelling to the far-off foreign country.”

Pak Sol Hyui, a young woman at the Wonsan shoe-making factory, said she dreamed of the “bright image of the respected Marshal” while laboring at her sewing machine. 

“How can I make the respected Marshal happier when he returns? This is the thought that filled my head all day,” she said. 

Kim Jong-un's diplomatic skills have been praised by state media Credit: Leah Mills/Reuters

According to NK News, some citizens have decided to give up alcohol for the duration of Kim’s trip, in order to demonstrate their loyalty. 

Reuters reported that Kim Jong Un’s long trip to Vietnam for a second summit with Donald Trump, the US president is causing sleepless nights back home. 

“Three days, three nights have passed since the news of the Dear Marshal’s overseas visit,” a commentary in the Rodong said on Wednesday. 

“Sleepless thinking of the Dear Marshal since Sunday” was leading to increased production from workers in the eastern town of Samjiyon and other construction “battlefields”, it added. 

Samjiyon is at the foot of Mount Paektu, a sacred mountain where the ruling dynasty claims its roots. Kim is building a massive tourism centre there, one of his largest construction initiatives as he seeks to make his sanctions-hit economy more self-reliant.

Kim and Mr Trump are meeting on Wednesday and Thursday to attempt to break a stalemate over the future of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. 

Since news broke on Sunday of his trip – an epic 2,500-mile journey across China in a luxury train – state media has dedicated much of its coverage to Kim’s “historic overseas trip” and his “extraordinary political and excellent diplomatic skills.”

Sycophantic media reports lauding Kim’s great exploits is nothing new in a country gripped by his cult of personality.  

However, this week’s coverage has been unusually extensive and current. During the first summit between Kim and Mr Trump in Singapore last June, North Korea’s state media maintained a blackout on the meeting until he arrived in the city-state. 

State news agency KCNA confirmed on Wednesday that Kim will remain in Vietnam after the summit for a March 1-2 goodwill visit, making his trip at least a week, the longest known trip since he came to power in 2011.