Audience Perception of North Korea Improves after Olympics Begin
Networked Insights Note: This is the first report in a new series Networked Insights is developing about the Olympics. We will continue to monitor top stories and provide data and analysis throughout the PyeongChang games, will and round our coverage with a research report answering the question: What is the impact of the Olympics?
The fluidity of audience opinion has never been more apparent than when we consider their feelings toward North Korea.
For the first time in at least three months, audience opinion about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is 60 percent positive; it was 60 percent negative just before the winter games began.
It’s a dramatic shift that audiences believe to be owed almost entirely to the Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’s actions during the first few days of the PyeongChang Games. Instead of nuclear war, conversations focused on the efforts toward reconciliation.
Methodology + Results
Using Kairos, Networked Insights’ audience intelligence platform, we analyzed more than 9 million conversations around North Korea that occurred during the last three months. Of those conversations, almost 60 percent of the audience felt negative about the country, with stressful topics, like nuclear war and nuclear threats being discussed in 17 percent of conversations.
But when Networked Insights isolated the conversations to opening day to February 13, Kairos pulled up more than 1.5 million conversations, and nearly 60 percent of the audience felt positive about North Korea and the Olympics. And instead of stress, 17 percent of the conversations mentioned keywords relating to pride.
This incredible shift in conversation, Networked Insights found, is mostly because of the DPRK’s recent actions.
When former Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il’s only sister, Kim Yo Jong, arrived at the PyeongChang Games straight from Pyongyang and proudly stood behind U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, audiences understood the act to be a sign that warmer relations are on the horizon, at least from the DPRK.
Without speaking, Kim Yo Jong momentarily arrested the power of an athletic gold-medal win. With only a flash of a smile, she completely shifted entrenched opinions of a country riddled with innumerable human rights violations. With only a brief visit to her rival city, standing behind her U.S. adversary, she conveyed the only message DPRK wanted to be heard: we come in peace; you don’t.
As messages of reconciliation and peace dominated the weekend’s visit, Pence remained seated during the opening ceremonies, and audiences spoke out.
The move aligned with Pence’s no-nonsense approach toward the DPRK, but the choice interfered with the US-backed South Korea’s ultimate desire for reunification and improving inter-Korean relations. Pence also didn’t attend a pre-opening ceremony dinner, where both Moon and Kim were in attendance—further driving the point that the U.S. is not backing down, to the chagrin of South Koreans.
Audiences caught-on to the should-be Olympic sport of political charades and most didn’t support, however, there were plenty (more than 40 percent) who were vocal about the “obvious attempts at propaganda.”
One Tweeter wrote, “The media praising North Korea and their Olympic appearance is sickening. You’re essentially saying you support Kim Jong-Un (sic) and his regime.”
Another, like Jake Tapper, took the moment to re-educate the supportive public about the crimes against humanity.
Even so, just as the North Korean cheerleaders ignited shock and awe as they rallied with bright smiles throughout the first-ever joint North and South Korean women’s hockey team, Kim Jong Un’s choices were a win for attention.
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