HANOI, Vietnam — President Donald Trump thinks he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to make peace with North Korea. Now, it appears that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might want one too.
After last year’s Singapore summit, and especially before this week’s summit in Hanoi, North Korean internal propaganda has been busy promoting the idea that Kim deserves a prize, Radio Free Asia reported this week.
“After the first U.S.-North Korean summit, the authorities began saying during propaganda lecture sessions that Kim Jong Un is a front-runner for the Nobel Peace Prize,” a North Korean government official told RFA’s Korean Service.
“Ever since … the Nobel Peace Prize became a hot topic of discussion here in North Korea,” the official said.
Another source in North Hamgyong province told RFA the propaganda had intensified ahead of the second summit.
“The prize is suddenly receiving a lot of attention ahead of the second summit. Authorities are putting out propaganda that idolizes Kim Jong Un, saying there’s a global ‘praise fever for the world’s greatest man,’” the source told RFA. “The propaganda even mentions that Western and Japanese media sources are lavishing praise upon the Supreme Leader, saying he’s a potential winner of the Peace Prize.”
The RFA report could not be independently confirmed. Even if it is true, it may simply represent meaningless sycophancy directed toward Kim. But optimists might see it as a sign that Kim is serious about the peace process and is preparing to make compromises about his nuclear and missile program.
Kim Myong-chol, executive director of the Center for Korean-American Peace and an unofficial spokesman for the North Korean government in Japan, told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper that he believed Trump deserved the prize and that “but Mr. Kim would not turn the honor down if it was given to both of them together.”
“It would be a great honor and one that indicates that things on the Korean Peninsula are going in a very favorable direction.”
Earlier this month, Trump said that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had personally given him “the most beautiful copy” of a letter nominating him for the prize for opening talks with Kim. Abe refused to confirm or deny the story, although unnamed Japanese government officials told domestic media that the prime minister had indeed submitted a nomination last year.
Trump also appeared bothered that President Barack Obama had won the prize in 2009.
“They gave it to Obama. He didn’t even know what he got it for. He was there for about 15 seconds and he got the Nobel Prize. He said, ‘Oh, what did I get it for?’” Trump said. “With me, I probably will never get it.”
But some people appear to believe he should — or are just trying to flatter his ego and keep him interested in the dialogue with Kim.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in believes that Trump “fully deserves” the prize, his office said earlier this month, and Moon himself has showered more praise on Trump since then.
“If President Trump succeeds in dissolving the last remaining Cold War rivalry, it will become yet another great feat that will be indelibly recorded in world history,” he said in a statement Monday.
Even in the checkered and controversial history of the Nobel Peace Prize, the leader of perhaps the world’s most repressive state would appear an unlikely recipient.
In 2000, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung won the prize, shortly after holding a summit with then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. But the Nobel Committee did not recognize his North Korean counterpart.