A Russian film director who secretly documented methods employed by propagandists in North Korea says Pyongyang will use Kim Jong Un's Singapore summit with Donald Trump to present Kim as a leader who successfully stood up to the U.S. president.
Vitaly Mansky, who was given unprecedented access to Pyongyang to make his 2015 documentary Under The Sun, told Current Time TV that he also thinks North Korea's totalitarian regime will never implement gradual reforms.
"The soft transition [to a liberal democracy] is not possible in North Korea," Mansky said on the eve of the June 12 summit. "Only the complete destruction of the system can bring change" in North Korea.
Mansky predicted that "the population of North Korea will be told: 'Look what a great country we are. The whole world is revolving around us. Trump himself traveled across...oceans to fall on his knees before us and look up into the eyes of our great leader, Kim Jong Un, and ask for mercy.'"
"This is how North Korea's state propaganda will portray the meeting" in the weeks and months ahead, Mansky said.
"North Korea has always formulated its position on South Korea as a territory occupied by the Americans and has always declared that it backs the ideology of the reunification of the two Koreas," Mansky explained.
"I think that something similar will be presented to the North Korean people," Mansky told Current Time, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.
He said North Koreans will be told that Kim has "demanded that America vacate the territory of our younger brother, South Korea, so that South Korea can return to the womb of the motherland."
"You have to understand that this is the way propaganda works in North Korea," he said.
North Korean Experience
Mansky's access to Pyongyang to film Under The Sky came only after two years of negotiations with North Korea's government.
Eventually, a plan was agreed upon to depict an 8-year-old girl named Zin Mi and her family in Pyongyang as she prepared to join a communist youth organization, the Korean Children's Union.
Under the agreement, North Korea's Culture Ministry was given the right to oversee and approve all aspects of filming.
Ministry employees wrote the script and selected the family that would be filmed, and Mansky was only allowed to film scenes and locations that were selected by the government.
Mansky could not even leave his hotel room without being followed by a government handler.
Frustrated by his lack of creative freedom, and realizing that Pyongyang wanted him to make a propaganda film, Mansky instructed his crew to secretly keep their cameras rolling between government-approved scenes.
As a result, he captured North Korea's propaganda teams at work as they staged scenes by telling Zin Mi and her family how to behave and what to say.
That transformed the film into a behind-the-scenes documentary on North Korean propagandists.
In order to preserve the unapproved footage, Mansky instructed his camera crew to record everything on two digital memory cards.
A woman crew member would hide one memory card in her trousers at the end of each work day when she went to the toilet.
Mansky gave the other memory card to North Korean censors who deleted footage revealing how their propaganda teams work.
After smuggling the unapproved footage out of North Korea, Mansky made two versions of the film -- a 60-minute "government-approved" version and a 106-minute "director's cut."
"I was able to go to North Korea on the wave of some kind of thaw," Mansky told Current Time.
"There were changes that had been declared," he said, adding that Kim Jong Un later backtracked on announced liberal reforms.
Now, Mansky said he saw Kim Jong Un and his close inner circle as members of a regime who "understand very well that any liberalization, in the end, will ruin the system that guarantees the existence of the leadership."
"If in Russia [after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union] a soft transition hasn't brought results in the end, North Korea is a much more complicated case," he said.
Mansky said he didn't think any journalists or negotiators who witnessed the Singapore summit will see the collapse of North Korea's totalitarian system in their lifetimes.
"As with any totalitarian regime, this system also will end," he said. "But some regimes continue to exist for centuries. I'm sure this is going to be a very long process in North Korea's case."