WHILE Kim Jong Un has long been regarded as a dictator in South Korea, the North Korean leader can expect a warm welcome from a portion of his estranged neighbours who have set up fan clubs in anticipation of his future visits.
In recent months, South Korean fan clubs of the leader have reportedly sprung up as the South anticipates frequent visits from as ties warm up between the two countries.
This came amid Kim’s pledge to hold more summits with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in next year to achieve the goal of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
The Telegraph attended a meeting involving dozens of South Korean students, sporting black winter coats, who were discussing their unlikely new hero on a frozen pathway in Seoul’s Maronie Park.
“Let’s make reunification happen a minute sooner,” they chanted, in reference to their political ambitions on having the Korean peninsula unified.
Another speaker, in a reflection of the shift in perception towards Kim in South Korea, said: “Until now, we did not know Kim’s true self. We only saw the media portrayal of him as an evil man!”
The group was among at least a dozen civic group, known collectively as the “Paektu Praise Committee” which have become an unofficial welcome group for Kim if he visits Seoul.
Kim had yet to confirm the timing of his unprecedented visit to Seoul, the South Korean capital, but the groups are already preparing for his arrival. Some are going around schools to collect welcome messages while others are even learning moves from a North Korean art troupe.
According to Reuters, Kim sent a letter to Moon on Sunday to commemorate the dramatic detente they engineered this year, including three summits, after years of confrontation marked by a series of the North’s nuclear and missile tests.
But stalled nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington had an impact on inter-Korean ties, with the South’s plan to host Kim in Seoul this year – as agreed at his summit with President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang in September – going unanswered by the North.
In June, Kim vowed to work towards denuclearisation at his landmark summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore but the two sides have since made little progress, struggling to reschedule a high-level meeting abruptly called off in November.
Kim said in the letter that he was sorry his visit to Seoul did not take place, expressing his “strong resolve” to make it happen in the future while monitoring the situation, Moon’s office said.
“Chairman Kim said he is willing to meet often with President Moon next year to move forward discussions on peace and prosperity and resolve the issue of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” Moon’s spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said in a statement.
Kim Han-sung, 28, who heads Korea Progressive University Student’s Union, a branch of the praise committee, told the Telegraph the welcoming parties had been inspired in part by President Moon’s warm reception in Pyongyang.
“The people there welcomed him with the Unified Korea flag and flowers. We plan on doing the same thing when Kim comes here. We are also planning for a candlelight cultural festival, campaigns, and street performances to welcome him,” he said.