(no description)FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, file photo,a train similar to one seen during previous visits by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives at Beijing Railway Station in Beijing. For his second summit with President Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un opted to travel retro _ riding the rails like his grandfather decades before. The decision was likely part security and part optics, designed to bring back memories of North Korean “eternal president” Kim Il Sung’s many travels by train. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

Mirroring grandfather, Kim rides the rails to Trump summit

Kim Jong Il, who was Kim Jong Un’s father, was known to have hated flying

For his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un opted to go retro — riding the rails like his grandfather decades before.

Kim’s decision to take the train all the way across China was probably prompted at least in part by security considerations— his train is built like a tank and almost as slow. But it also marks a major attempt at showmanship designed to bring back memories of North Korean “eternal president” Kim Il Sung’s many travels by railroad.

Kim Jong Un’s journey aboard his forest green train from Pyongyang to the Vietnamese border town of Dong Dang took more than two and a half days. That’s longer than it took Trump to fly halfway around the world, even with Air Force One stopping for fuel along the way.

But the overland passage was a marked upgrade in optics from Kim’s first summit with Trump, in Singapore last June.

For that trip, Kim travelled aboard an Air China Boeing 747, meaning the first images from that history-making arrival showed him disembarking from an American-made plane emblazoned with a Chinese flag.

This time around, when Kim stepped down early Tuesday from his distinctive yellow-trimmed train, he was greeted with a bouquet of flowers on a patterned red carpet lined with a Vietnamese honour guard and the five-pointed communist-starred flags of North Korea and Vietnam. He then switched to a black limousine for the final drive to Hanoi.

That’s a much more on-message scene for the North Koreans, who want their home audience to see Kim as the man in charge.

But it’s also familiar on another level.

North Koreans grow up seeing images of Kim’s grandfather travelling by train, which he took to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, among other places. Kim Il Sung visited Vietnam in 1958 and 1964, though he used a mix of airplanes and trains on those journeys.

A mock-up of a car from the train is on permanent display at the mausoleum where Kim Il Sung and his son, late leader Kim Jong Il, lie in state, along with maps that light up to show the routes he took on his travels.

Inside the car is a desk used by the leaders, along with chairs and a sofa. Guides explain that the carriage was used as a mobile office — proof, they insist, the leaders worked tirelessly for the people.

Kim Jong Il, who was Kim Jong Un’s father, was known to have hated flying and travelled by train on several trips to China. He is said to have fitted his train out to accommodate lavish parties and karaoke sessions.

During his father’s rule, trips abroad were often not reported for days after they were over, if at all.

But that appears to be changing, also suggesting the importance in the minds of the North’s propagandists of getting their own visuals out quickly to the nation.

It took North Korean state media less than half a day from the time his train was spotted crossing the border into China to report that Kim was onboard. Images released by the official Korean Central News Agency showed him inspecting an honour guard in Pyongyang and waving from the train.

Kim’s exact overseas travel plans are routinely kept secret for security reasons. His train appears to have bypassed the busy Chinese capital, Beijing, and few images have trickled out since The Associated Press and others witnessed it crossing into the Chinese border city of Dandong on Saturday evening. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported seeing his train in the central Chinese town of Changsha on Monday.

A Japanese TV network caught another candid moment — early morning shots of Kim, a well-known chain smoker, puffing away while on a stop in Nanning.

___

Talmadge is the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief. Schreck is AP’s Asia Pacific news director. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter: @EricTalmadge and @adamschreck

___

This story has been corrected to fix details of Kim Il Sung’s Vietnam visits in 1958 and 1964.

Eric Talmadge And Adam Schreck, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Former Campbell Riverite reaches Everest summit

Clayton Matthews’ team got to the top of the world earlier this week

Strathcona Regional District fiscal health gradually improving, staff say

Tax and service revenue was up for the SRD in 2018, while grant money was down

VIDEO: Campbell River highschool event marks Canadian human rights milestone

50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality

Blaney plan helps seniors late with taxes

Simple solution to important issue: North Island-Powell River MP

Campbell River resident to campaign on climate, economy for Liberal Party seat in Ottawa

Peter Schwarzhoff joins race for the second time in North Island-Powell River riding

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

B.C. ferry stops to let bear swim past

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Update: Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Vancouver Island MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Some of America’s greatest session musicians are coming to the Comox Valley this summer

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

Most Read