June 24, 2019

Trump and Kim’s Interactions Aren’t Transactional Anymore

By Duyeon Kim

There’s a Korean saying that goes “Chop 10 times, and there isn’t a tree that won’t fall over.” Sometimes that number goes up to 100, but the underlying point—fundamental to courtship in South Korea—is one of persistence. Women are expected to play hard to get until a man proves he’s worth her time and her heart. The first rejection hardly ever means “no”; it just means you have to work harder and she will eventually come around.

When it comes to the world of work, a similar mentality of “Keep at it till you make it” is often fueled by the hierarchical nature, albeit in sharply different ways and degrees, of both North and South Korean society—orders from the top must be followed. Failure, or declaring something impossible before trying, is never an option.

Perhaps this philosophy was Kim Jong Un’s guiding star during his February summit with President Donald Trump in Hanoi. At the time, the North Korean leader refused to budge on his offer that Pyongyang would dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear complex in exchange for key sanctions relief, and appeared to have no Plan B when Trump rejected that bargain. Perhaps he was of the belief that persistence would prevail. (Or perhaps it was just the good old-fashioned “salami slicing” tactics common in North Korean negotiations.)

Read the full article in The Atlantic.

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