SEOUL/HANOI: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's long trip to Vietnam for a second summit with US President Donald Trump is causing sleepless nights back home, according to extensive and unusually punctual North Korean state media coverage.
Unlike with their first summit in Singapore in June, when North Korean state media stayed silent until after Kim arrived in the city state, coverage this time began swiftly as he travelled through China to Vietnam by train.
North Korea’s flagship state newspaper Rodong Sinmun emblazoned its front and second pages on Wednesday (Feb 27) with pictures from Kim's first day in Vietnam.
Photos showed Kim surrounded by welcoming throngs, talking to his foreign-policy lieutenants in his stateroom, and greeting cheering children of North Korean embassy staff.
Trump and Kim will meet on Wednesday and Thursday, betting their personal relationship can break a stalemate over the North's nuclear weapons and end more than 70 years of hostility.
Since North Korean media first confirmed Kim's trip on Sunday, Rodong has dedicated much of its coverage to Kim's "historic overseas trip" with descriptions of his "extraordinary political and excellent diplomatic skills".
"Three days, three nights have passed since the news of the Dear Marshal's overseas visit," a commentary 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 family 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.
"WHERE IS HE NOW?"
On Tuesday, Rodong carried a picture of school children studying a globe captioned "Where is the Dear Marshal now?"
State news agency KCNA confirmed on Wednesday Kim would stay on in Vietnam after the summit for a Mar 1-2 goodwill visit, making his trip at least a week, the longest known trip since he came to power in 2011.
Vietnamese state media has had unprecedented close access to Kim during his visit.
When Kim's train arrived, Vietnam Television (VTV) filmed it rolling into the station.
Unlike in Singapore, where only a blurry live video on social media was available when Kim met Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Vietnamese state media has been broadcasting fast edits of Kim's activities in Vietnam.
Kim’s first trips abroad as leader last year were initially covered in a characteristically secretive way by North Korean state media, which did not even announce he had left the country until after he was safely back.
But as the frequency of his summits increased with visits to China, Singapore, and to the border with South Korea, state media has begun reporting on his movements with unusual speed.
"First, it shows his confidence in drawing out a favourable summit outcome. Second, by sharing his moves he is trying to form a support base as he tries to turn North Korea in a new direction," said Lim Eul-chul, director of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies.
"It shows confidence in maintaining his regime as well. This is a leader North Koreans hadn't seen before: broadcasting technicolour video of foreign city lights, and giving hope to people," Lim said.
"'As a leader, I'll write new history', that's what he's saying."