Tag Archive | "media"

A British Voice in North Korea: A Threat to the Regime?

By Jeff Zwick

The BBC may have just put the North Korean regime in a jam. As one of its 12 new language services, BBC Korea is now up and running. In addition to the website, the service’s radio transmissions will be accessible to Koreans on both ends of the peninsula. This move by the London-based news network presents the North Korean regime with two bad options: jam the transmissions, as it has already done, or let the programs run uninterrupted. Given the fact that the DPRK has active relations with the UK – the DPRK has an embassy in London and the UK has an embassy in the DPRK – jamming the radio transmissions may result in North Korean citizens questioning the regime’s motives behind blocking a news network from a country with whom relations are active. If the regime chooses the second option, allowing the transmissions to run uninterrupted, the regime allows outside information to enter the reclusive country, something that it has long opposed.

According to the Economist, there are at least 10 foreign radio stations transmitting to North Korea. These include U.S. and South Korea-based radio stations. It may be simple for the North Korean people to understand why their government jams radio transmissions from the U.S. and South Korea-based news networks. The North has long demonized these countries and has no active relations with either of them. It may be more difficult for a North Korean citizen to accept the jamming of foreign radio transmissions from a country with which the DPRK has active relations like the newest foreign radio station on the scene, the London-based BBC.

The relations between the DPRK and the UK have recently become less stable with the North threatening the UK’s “miserable end” if it joins the U.S. and South Korea in military drills. The North Korean government will likely need to continue such rhetoric, placing the UK in the same category as its enemies, the U.S., South Korea, and Japan, in order to justify the jamming to the North Korean people. If it jams the BBC transmissions without taking these actions, it would be clearer to North Korean citizens that there is an unknown motive behind the censorship. That level of uncertainty and confusion could build and develop into an unfavorable situation for the regime. On the other hand, if the regime allows the broadcasts to air uninterrupted, the information could influence the thoughts and actions of North Korean people.

Legally, North Koreans can only listen to state-run radio. Radios sold in North Korea are programmed to only receive transmissions from such legal channels. There are ways around this but even for those with access to a radio which can receive foreign broadcasts, the regime makes efforts to jam the transmissions. Despite these censorship efforts, some North Koreans tune into foreign radio programs. After interviewing 350 North Korean refugees, defectors, and travelers a survey by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), cited in a report by Intermedia, discovered that 72% of the interviewees learned of outside information by word of mouth. The second highest source at 11% was foreign radio. Of the 103 foreign radio listeners, 61% stated that they listened to foreign broadcasts to “learn news about the outside world.” When this group was asked how often they listened, 46% stated that they listened weekly.

There seems to be an appetite for outside information amongst some North Koreans and its consumption has led to changes within North Korean Society. One North Korean in the Intermedia study said the viewing of South Korean and Chinese dramas has caused men to confess their feelings to women and rather than arranged marriages, most couples nowadays date before getting married. This specific change may not be threatening to the regime but it does show that outside information has an effect on North Koreans.

If the DPRK’s relations with the UK translate into a base of trust for North Korean citizens, the rate of change in North Korean society that follows could potentially be larger than that of previous years. If there is indeed a base of trust for the BBC in North Korea, jamming the transmissions may yield more dire results for the North Korean government than allowing it to air uninterrupted. The idea of something becoming more interesting after it is restricted or censored is referred to as the Streisand Effect. It is anyone’s guess as to what this effect would look like in North Korea, but with BBC on the air, the chances of such an effect may have just increased.

Jeff Zwick has a Master’s degree in Asian Studies from the University of Utah and is currently an intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Tim@SW2008’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Netflix’s Korean Premiere Met with Controversy

By James Do

With the success of Korean popular culture reaching many countries around the world, especially Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, video streaming service Netflix is trying to capitalize on the success of Korean entertainment. By riding on the popularity of its original content (House of Cards, Orange is the New Black) and incorporating Korean media into their library, Netflix is now in a prime position gain a market share in the entertainment industry in Korea.

Since Netflix expanded its service globally, the company began to offer more Korean movies and television shows onto its streaming library. Many of its programs tend to be more recent releases such as the movie Tunnel or Train to Busan, which both premiered in Korean cinemas in 2016. The company has also picked up several Korean television shows including The Sound of your Heart and My Only Love Song. In addition, many older famous Korean movies and television shows such as Assassination, Old Boy, and Descendants of the Sun are currently available to watch. In fact, Netflix now offers more Korean movies or television shows than Japanese or Chinese content.

We can see this trend continuing with Netflix’s investment into its upcoming film, Okja. Directed by the renowned Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Snow-piercer), Okja serves as Netflix’s official entry into the Korean entertainment market. Okja is a movie about a young country girl, Mija, (Ahn Seo-hyun) who stops at nothing to defend her newfound friend, Okja, a pig-like animal genetically created to be used for human consumption. During her adventure to save her beloved friend, she takes on an evil corporation led by a powerful CEO (Tilda Swinton) who seeks nothing but to profit from Okja and her species. Mija befriends animal rights activists (Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, and Lily Collins) who assist her in her quest to save Okja.

While the plot of the movie evokes a sense of adventure, the film itself is without controversy. Netflix recently announced that the film would be released both in theaters and online in Korea, a first for the company, which has never pushed to have their own content released through cinema or television broadcasting. After the announcement, major Korean theater chains opposed Netflix’s plan to release the movie simultaneously, as movies there are typically screened in theaters and made available online after a few weeks. CGV, Korea’s largest cinema chain, refused to screen the film, while Megabox and Lotte Cinema are still debating.

Bong Joon-ho, Okja’s director, explained that while trying to cater to its subscription base, Netflix went against the existing norms and systems of the existing Korean film industry. However, although the film remained controversial to big theater outlets, many independent theaters agreed to premier Okja.

In addition to Netflix’s controversial role in the Korean film industry, the film also garnered attention at the Cannes Film Festival. While the film was invited to be premiered at the festival, it was omitted from award consideration, since the movie was not planned for theatrical released in France – a rule that was introduced after the lineup for this year’s festival was settled. Bong stated “[The festival] invited us and then caused a stir, making us embarrassed. They should have put the rules in place and then invited us. How can I as a filmmaker study local French laws while making films?”

With all the controversies over Okja, what will the future of Netflix and the Korean film industry be? The popularity of Korean entertainment globally has influenced Netflix to ride the Korean wave by entering a market that continues to grow immensely not just in Korea but abroad. As Netflix hopes to increase its user base, it’s possible the company will seek to invest in other films and television programs in countries where online streaming remains popular.

 With streaming becoming ubiquitous among younger generations, film industries must change their business model to incorporate more recent trends. The way we watch and engage in film and televisions has already immensely changed from the previous decade. To meet the needs of contemporary times, companies and organizations need to develop an environment where filmmakers are motivated but also given more recent standards of support. With its innovative model of simultaneous physical and online premieres, Netflix is at the forefront of these changing times. Now it is up to the film industry and its community to change their policies to reflect current digital trends.

James Do is a graduate student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy focusing on International Security Studies and Pacific Asia and an intern at the Korea Economic Institute. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from TFurban’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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North Korea, Fake News, and getting Clickbaited by Kim Jong-un

By Nathaniel Curran

Fake News has been the hot topic of the past year, following the election of Donald Trump. The term has evolved from a description of false-fact to become something of a general pejorative. When Donald Trump denounced CNN as fake news, the subsequent rhetorical effect was less to question the veracity of CNN’s reporting than to insinuate that the news agency was morally bankrupt (or put differently, “not nice”).

We now live in a post-truth society where elections can be influenced by clickbait, and the topic of North Korea is one that lends itself incredibly well to this new-era of sensationalist headlines and questionable reporting. For one thing, the country is sensational, in the sense that any details that emerge concerning Kim Jong-un do indeed promote intense curiosity. A nuclear-capable rogue nation ruled by a third-generation despot is sure to arouse an interest in anyone with an even passing interest in international affairs.

I can’t count how many times I’ve clicked on an article on Facebook that promised to show me “shocking but true” photos from North Korea, only to find out that the article featured photos from a Pyongyang planned tour, featuring nothing more than a few snapshots of statues of Kim Il-sung. Other times the headline will describe a provocation that I learn, having clicked on the link, is actually several years old. People love to share news, and in the case of North Korea, they seem to have a difficult time separating the wheat from the chaff.

But even beyond the well-known phenomenon of clickbait, North Korea seems persistently plagued by a fake news-esque problem that is perpetuated by even reputable media outlets. Often these articles involve wild speculation that lacks substance yet maximize clickability. Such reports vary from whimsical bits of gossip, with titles like “You’ll never believe which American celebrity is popular in North Korea!” to voyeuristic pieces about the Kim family’s quirks or spending habits.

One explanation for this glut of coverage is that these stories are easy to write; North Korea consistently provides plenty of fodder. What these articles don’t always do, however, is put the North Korean situation in context. For example, when an article mentions that the North Korean state media has said North Korea will drown country X’s city Y in fire, it often fails to mention that such pronouncements are not out of the ordinary. Frequency of the threat is an important distinction to make; North Korean state media demonizing the U.S. is by no means a rare occurrence, whereas, say, Canadian threats of fire-drowning, should they appear, warrant immediate attention.

This is not to say that the situation with North Korea is not both dangerous and evolving; the North Korean situation is without a doubt one of the most vexing problems facing both the U.S. and South Korea. When one factors in China’s support for the Kim regime, along with China’s position as a new superpower, the situation becomes even more pressing and complex.

This is precisely why the American news media needs to do a better job of putting the situation into context. The American public is presented with an image of North Korea that is anachronistic and inaccurate. On the one hand, the situation is made to appear simpler than it is –either they nuke us or they don’t- while on the other hand the constant threat of nuclear annihilation obscures important issues like China and South Korea’s relationship with North Korea, as well as the ongoing humanitarian crisis in North Korea.

Stories on North Korea -at least those that seek to adhere to even the most basic of journalistic standards- need to contextualize their coverage. Simply reporting a news release from Pyongyang isn’t enough; stories need to also include an explanation for how the geopolitical situation has shifted as a result. Otherwise, such stories are probably less the result of a new development and more the result of a slow news day.

However, the onus is also on us as social media users. We must all refrain from clicking “share” just because the title contains the word “nuclear” or features photos of lockstep soldiers and rocket artillery. North Korea is volatile and unstable as it is, and the last thing anyone wants is a Boy-who-cried-wolf situation if things take a turn for the worse on the peninsula.

Nathaniel Curran is a PhD student at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and a 2017 COMPASS Summer Fellow. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from driver Photographer’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Hallyu Sets its Sights on the Middle East

By Jenna Gibson

At the end of May, Korea’s largest media company announced it would be opening a Turkish unit to help create and promote local content for the Turkish market. They already have plans to film Turkish versions of popular Korean movies, and hope to move forward with more Korean-Turkish co-productions in the future.

CJ E&M is a Hallyu powerhouse, owning the music-oriented TV channel Mnet as well as popular cable channel tvN, responsible for several smash-hit dramas including 2016’s “Goblin.” With this move to increase its presence in Turkey, CJ is hoping to make new inroads for the Korean Wave in the Middle East.

Although the main markets for Korean pop culture abroad are still in East and Southeast Asia, the phenomenon has put down roots around the world, including in the Middle East. In Iran, for example, fascination with Korean culture started back in the mid-2000s, when the historical drama “Dae Jang Geum” was broadcast on state TV and garnered 86 percent ratings nationwide. In fact, in a 2017 report of the most popular shows on Netflix around the world, Iran was only one of two non-Asian countries to put a Korean drama (2012’s Love Rain) on the top of their queues.

Meanwhile, last year the United Arab Emirates became the first non-Asian country to host a KCON event after the United States. KCON, a music festival/cultural experience featuring some of the biggest k-pop stars as well as demonstrations of Korean food, beauty products, and more, drew more than 8,000 fans to its Abu Dhabi stop.

Scholars have speculated that one of the reasons Hallyu is so popular in the Middle East is because although some of the specifics are different, Korean dramas tend to focus on values that conservative audiences in the Middle East find relatable. According to one study of female fans of Korean pop culture in Iran, “Reflecting traditional family values, Korean culture is deemed ‘a filter for Western values’ in Iran.” The study dug further into online fan communities across the Middle East, showing that love of Korean pop culture allowed women to share a sense of community with fellow Hallyu fans. “The uni-culture cyberspace community of fandom has given Middle Eastern women confidence and a strong sense of group identity, sometimes for the first time.”

But the Hallyu movement is not just about giving fans a place to enjoy catchy dances or dramatic love stories. For the Korean companies that create Hallyu content and sponsor overseas events like KCON, it’s about getting fans to buy Korean.

“We see that there are a lot of business potential in many areas that are influenced by Korean culture, such as the beauty, IT and SOC markets,” Sul-joon Ahn, President of Music Division at CJ E&M, told Dubai News after the KCON event.

In fact, South Korea has been trying to create a “Second Middle East Boom,” focused on boosting industries like construction, infrastructure and energy. By capitalizing on the popularity of Hallyu, this push for increased Korean presence in the region can expand to include consumer goods and creative content.

CJ E&M’s expansion into the Turkish market could signal a new era of Hallyu, one that focuses on localization and domestic buy-in to boost the continued success of Korean pop culture around the world.

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone. 

Image from Republic of Korea’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Is the Hallyu Crisis with China Over?

By Jenna Gibson

Beijing has approved the broadcast of a new Korean drama that had been co-produced by a Korean and a Chinese company, according to a source in the Chinese entertainment industry, making it the first Korean show to get the green light since before the THAAD spat.

This move is good news for Korean entertainment companies, which have been lamenting the Chinese ban which had slowly pushed Korean stars out of the spotlight throughout last year and culminated in direct retaliation against tourist packages and Lotte Department stores. It also bodes well for drama co-productions, which had seen tremendous success in last year’s standout Descendants of the Sun. At the time, before THAAD derailed things, Korean-Chinese collaboration was seen as the new frontier in Hallyu, and key to the continued success of Korean creative content in the Chinese market.

What’s interesting is the impetus for China’s reversal on allowing Hallyu content. Beijing is likely trying to start off on a good foot with newly elected Korean President Moon Jae-In, himself a skeptic of the THAAD system, in an attempt to give Moon some leeway should he decide to review the deployment.

A recent op-ed in the People’s Daily-affiliated Global Times insisted that “It is likely that Moon will stop THAAD’s deployment,” saying, “The huge economic losses South Korea has suffered are a result of the Chinese public’s anger. South Korea, which relies heavily on China economically, needs to weigh its potential gains and losses carefully” and that “Both Beijing and Seoul should take Moon’s presidency as an opportunity to promote warmer bilateral relations.”

But in reality, Moon has little room to maneuver at this point. THAAD is already in place and operating at some capacity, and recent missile launches from North Korea (the second of which was detected by THAAD) have highlighted its necessity in the public eye.

Although there was a dip in approval last November, the Korean public has largely remained favorable toward the THAAD system, according to polling by the Asan Institute in Seoul.  As of March, 50.6 percent of Koreans approved of THAAD, with 37.9 percent opposed. Perhaps because of this, President Moon has softened his position from outright opposition during the early stages of the campaign to stating that he objects to the way the decision was made, not the system itself.

As Asan Vice President Choi Kang pointed out in a KEI podcast after the election, President Moon may be constrained both by domestic politics and public opinion. Moon’s Minjoo Party only has 120 seats out of 300 seats in the National Assembly, and he failed to breach 50 percent of the vote during his election.

“How he can make a coalition or compromise with opposition parties is going to be a very, very critical issue for him to handle in the early phase of his presidency,” Choi said.

This could be particularly difficult when it comes to China, which has seen a steep decline in popularity among the Korean public since they stepped up their economic pressure over THAAD. Beijing’s economic retaliation has included the ban on selling tourist packages to Korea as well as cancelled concerts and a block on Korean entertainment content being uploaded to streaming sites.

According to a new report from the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade (KIET), “China’s ban on South Korean cultural imports will amount to 5.6 trillion won (US$5.02 billion) and 15.2 trillion won (US$13.6 billion) in direct and indirect damage in the consumer goods distribution sector” if it continues for six months. New numbers from the Korea Tourism Organization show a 66 percent year-on-year drop in Chinese visitors in April, driving much of the estimated losses for industries such as clothing and cosmetics.

“It’s quite difficult for South Korea to improve its relations with China because public understanding of China has deteriorated over several months,” Choi said. “So unless there is a positive sign coming from China on this economic pressure, it is very unlikely for the South Korean government to improve drastically its relations with China.”

Now that China seems to be offering an olive branch, public opinion may begin to shift back in Beijing’s favor. But after months of panicked headlines over China’s latest crackdown, it’s unlikely that one fantasy romance drama will be enough to turn things around entirely.

At this point, Beijing may continue to roll back its content and tourism bans in the hopes of wooing President Moon to their point of view, or as a face-saving measure. Either way, though, Chinese leadership would be ill-advised to hold their breath for a THAAD removal.

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Image from LG전자’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Five K-pop Tropes that Need to Go

By Jenna Gibson

I have a confession to make – I love k-pop. Ever since my first few weeks living in Korea, when my k-pop obsessed friends sat me down and made me watch all the great music videos back to back to back, I was hooked. I love the spectacle of a great concert and the pull of a beautiful, cheesy ballad (if you think k-pop is all neon and glitter, you haven’t delved into the wonderful world of k-pop ballads).

As a fan of anything, especially something like k-pop that’s still relatively niche in the United States, it can be very frustrating to read news articles about the genre. While some have done a great job of delving into some of the really cool and interesting aspects of the k-pop world, others have fallen into the trap of tired cliche. After a few particularly frustrating examples recently, I have gathered (with input from my fellow fangirls) five of the k-pop tropes that American media needs to put to rest once and for all.

1. K-pop? Gangnam Style!

I have to give Psy credit. Gangnam Style did a lot of great things for Korean pop culture – I will never forget the shock I felt hearing Korean rap on a top 40s station for the first time. But that was five years ago…it’s time to find a new point of reference. This is not to say that Psy should be banned from news articles point blank – if you’re writing about k-pop’s entry into the American market, of course you have to mention the explosive popularity of the quirky rapper. But if you’re writing about how several big boy bands are facing an uncertain future because of mandatory military service…I’m not sure how a solo rapper and his 2012 hit are relevant to your story.

2. The Korean [fill in American artist here].

It’s understandable to try and describe Korean artists in terms that American readers will understand. However, leaning on comparisons without in-depth reasons why the artists are comparable is not good writing, it’s also condescending to both the Korean artist in question and to the people reading the article.  If you compare Shinee to the Backstreet Boys for no other reason than the fact that they both have five members, you’re not trying hard enough. And no, mega-star Rain is not the Korean Usher. Or the Korean Justin Timberlake. Or, oddly, the Korean Gene Kelly. And can we stop with the Justin Bieber references yet?  Just because they share one or two traits, that doesn’t make them the same.

3. Robots in guyliner

Korea is “cranking out pop stars” and Korean entertainment companies “specialize in manufacturing a steady stream of teenage idols.”  Yes, the k-pop scene moves fast. And yes, the fact that entertainment companies train kids for years before debuting them in well-thought-out groups is perhaps a bit unusual to the American eye. But it’s misleading to liken the idols to robots being spit out like cookie cutter copies of each other. This depiction ignores the autonomy of the boys and girls who work incredibly hard to get into a group and perfect their skills. It implies a uniformity that I certainly don’t see in the kpop scene today (anyone who wants kpop recommendations, I’m happy to provide a wide variety of styles to choose from!) And, finally, this depiction of Korean automatons on stage implies that the artists have no underlying talent beyond what the company has bestowed upon them despite the real talents they have.

4. The K-pop throne

One trope that is oddly common is calling certain groups the “kings,” “queens,” of k-pop. Now, you’re never going to be able to satisfy fans of every group out there, but by singling one out as the peak of the genre, you’re bound to get heated disagreements. At the very least, use statistics to justify including certain groups in an article – did they just sell out a world tour? Did they break a bunch of YouTube records? Did they break album sales records? Set a new record on the charts. Let’s be honest, you’ll still probably get some heated comments by ignoring certain groups. But at least a group’s claim to the k-pop throne will be justified.

5. K-pop is taking over the world!

This is not news. The New York Times reported on this theme as early as 2006. Time to find a new angle. Like the fact that a lot of the super famous 2nd/3rd generation k-pop groups are breaking up all around the same time – that’s an interesting article! (now, the author breaks pretty much all the other no-nos and then some, but that’s another story). Or how about this incredibly well-researched piece about how fans donate thousands of dollars to charity to boost their idol’s reputation? Now that’s an interesting story. Or, maybe why despite their success they haven’t conquered the United States yet. Generic stories about how Korean pop music is popular around the world? That’s so 2006.

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Peter Kaminski’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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5 Interesting Documentaries about South Korea

By Jenna Gibson

Historically, local documentaries have not been that popular in South Korea – the first commercially successful documentary in the country was 2008’s “Old Partner,” which shattered domestic records just by attracting 100,000 viewers in the first few weeks after its release. Since then, more independent films have begun to crop up, telling real-life stories about different aspects of Korea. The five films below represent some of those stories.

1. Twinsters (2015)

Imagine waking up one day after living 25 years as an only child and finding out that you have an identical twin. This scenario is not just for dramatic soap operas – it really happened to two Korean adoptees. Twinsters follows Samantha Futerman, who grew up in the United States, and Anais Bordier, who grew up in France, as they get to know the twin they never knew they had. While this film is about the two women and their growing relationship, it also touches on broader themes related to international adoption and what culture and heritage means for these adoptees as they get older.

Available for streaming on Netflix.

 2. Reach for the Sky (2015)

The hyper-competitive Korean education system is not a new subject, but Reach for the Sky approaches it from a somewhat new angle – Repeaters. These students choose to spend a full year after their high school graduation focused only on improving their college entrance exam score with the hopes of getting into a better university. The film follows a group of these students throughout their repeating year, telling through them the story of a society where the name of your university can determine the course of your life.

Available for purchase (DVD and streaming) here: http://reachfortheskydoc.com/#

3. My Love, Don’t Cross that River (2014)

 This touching film about an elderly couple and their 76-year marriage was a smash success, becoming the most commercially successful independent film in Korea’s history. Slow-moving but never dull, the film lets the couple’s love speak for itself – like when 98-year-old Jo Byeong-man throws leaves on his wife while raking their yard, her exasperated response indicating that this has happened many times before. In this way, the film successfully portrays themes of love, family, and endurance without any need for narration or explanation.

Available for purchase (DVD and streaming) through Amazon Video.

4. The Battle of Chosin (2016)

This PBS special retells the pivotal Korean War battle of the Chosin Reservoir through the eyes of troops who fought there in 1950. Often known as the “Forgotten War,” the experiences during the Korean War nevertheless played a key role in shaping how Americans approached the world for the next 50 years. This film helps put the Chosin battle, and the experiences of the soldiers who fought there, into this wider perspective.

Available on the PBS website.

5. Even the Rivers (2015)

A brief but helpful introduction into some of the challenges faced by multicultural children in South Korea. Based on interviews with students, parents and teachers, this film touches on the ways Korea has become more multicultural, and what that means for the children who are growing up and going to school in a country that was, until very recently, entirely homogeneous.

Available to watch free on Vimeo – information on the film’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/eventherivers/

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Image from Epping Forest DC’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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South Korea’s Concern with Nation Branding Strategies

By Sungeun (Grace) Chung

Maintaining peaceful and cooperative international relations has become exceptionally important in a global society. There are two means that a nation can use to influence the preferences of international audiences: hard power and soft power. While exercising hard power is associated with the use of military and economic compulsion, soft power is to promote a nation’s influence through appeal, diplomacy, propaganda, and cultural attraction. Among soft power tools, a nation’s image could significantly contribute to advancing its global public image.

South Korea is very well known for its development in hard power over the decades, but many experts and citizens have criticized for the slow development of its national image. A solidified national brand helps a nation receive high respect and acceptance by other political bodies in the world, shaping a strong national brand has risen as an issue in Korea. Simon Anholt, an independent policy advisor, is the “inventor” of the measurement index of a nation’s image perceived by other countries in 2005. Using three major surveys with a panel of 30,000 individuals in 25 countries annually, the Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index (NBI) bases its idea on several dimensions: culture, governance, people, exports, tourism, investment, and immigration).

During his keynote address at the “Nation Brands in the Global Market” conference held in Seoul in May 2006, he stated that according to the poor scores South Korea obtained in the 2005 NBI, it had “a major image problem.” South Korea ranked 25th in 2005, yet it downgraded to 33rd in the 2008 NBI even with “great advances in prosperity, stability, transparency, productivity, education” and the popularity of the Korean Wave in Asia. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF), South Korea’s nominal gross domestic product (GDP) has significantly soared from $65.2 billion in 1980 to $1 trillion in 2008, and now it is $1.4 trillion in 2016. Korea has proven that it has become one of the largest economies in the world, but its rank for NBI also proved that South Korea has not been successful in promoting its image to the world.

Anholt mentioned that many people had seemed to confuse North Korea and South Korea. Those who confused the two viewed the South Korean government as “dangerous,” “unpredictable,” and “unstable.” Luke Stanhope, a Seoul-based strategic communications professional and a former South Korea Fulbright Research Fellow, criticizes that Western media paints a negative image about South Korea: the 1950 Korean War, hyper-stressed students, a divided Korea, North Korean missiles, corruption in government and the chaebol companies, video game addiction, the Sewol ferry tragedy, and protests for the President Park Geun-hye’s resignation. Korea needs to address this problem of its lagging international reputation.

Urged to take actions on this “Korea Discount” phenomenon indicating the gap between Korea’s miraculous developments and its poor perception by the international community, Lee Myung-bak, South Korean President from 2008 to 2013, established the Presidential Council on Nation Branding in January 2009. His goal was to bring Korea’s NBI from 33rd to 15th by the end of his appointed term. In an interview with The Korea Times, Euh Yoon-dae, the first chairman of the Council, stated that the Council would focus on improving its global competitiveness through various ways. He proposed to strengthen the brands of Korean firms to attract more foreign direct investments, to increase official development assistance (ODA) for underdeveloped countries, to create a brilliant slogan for Korea, to raise awareness of internationally accepted norms and etiquette among citizens, and to promote positive images as a country with highly valuable IT technologies and the Korean Wave.

Some of these pledges have been successful. Continued efforts have increased foreign direct investments to an all-time high of $7.6 billion. Korea is the first country to go from receiving international development assistance to then joining the prestigious Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Additionally, PyeongChang was selected to host the 23rd Olympic Winter Games in 2018 through a highly competitive selection process. K-Pop, popular music, has contributed to the Korean Wave, increasing Korea’s exports to $80.9 million worth of music in 2010, a 159% increase from 2009, and to $177 million in 2011. South Korea launched the G20 Summit in Seoul in 2010, and according to the Presidential Council, it contributed to a 17% increase in terms of foreigners’ knowledge of Korea and a 3.5% increase in positive international opinion of Korea.

Although the NBI rank for South Korea went up to the 17th place in 2012, there are a few examples that represent recent PR related concerns among the public in Korea. One is a promotional video for the upcoming Pyeong Chang Winter Olympics. The Public Relations Team of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism was responsible for the “Arari,Yo Project” to promote the Olympics. A member of a famous girl singer group, Hyorin, and a few other famous celebrities were featured in the video, using Korea’s traditional song, Arirang. Many critics and the public commented about the bizarre video, saying that they do not understand the purpose of the video and why they spent 275 million won ($235,000) on the video production. They believe that the target audience, foreigners, would not understand the video’s concept.

Another example is Korea’s capital, Seoul’s new logo, “I. Seoul. U.” Implying that Seoul is a city where two individuals can co-exist, this slogan has been selected to replace the current famous slogan of Seoul, “Hi, Seoul.” This slogan has received major backlash, not only because it does not clearly convey its meaning, but also because the city government invested an excessive amount of money for something that the international community criticizes, approximately 500 million won ($425,500) was spent on promoting the slogan and another 300 million won ($255,000) for the launching ceremony.

Korea has attempted to improve its lack of an international image for a long time, but it has not been too successful. Some experts including Simon Anholt and Fiona Bae, deputy PR manager at Hyundai Capital & Hyundai Card, criticize that it may be because Korea has focused on marketing and tourism while ignoring the opinions of their target audience, the international community. As Cho Hyun-jin from the former president’s foreign media team says, South Korea must understand that the national image should come first, then tourism and marketing. The government should be more strategic in order to be a leader for their international agenda. As Korea puts much efforts into their PR strategies, they should plan ahead to promote their image, using opportunities such as international meetings and the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics.

Sungeun (Grace) Chung is an intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America and a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in Economics and Applied Mathematics as well as a minor in East Asian Studies. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Eugene Lim’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Why Do We Believe Everything We Hear About North Korea?

By Jenna Gibson and Chris Hurst

The discovery of a unicorn lair, the execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle by a pack of rabid dogs, and a decree that all North Korean men must copy Kim Jong Un’s haircut. All of these were stories that were widely covered in mainstream Western news outlets. And all of them are false.

These stories spread like wildfire around the internet, prompting North Korea watchers to push back. “Other than North Korean executions, what other news stories routinely get circulated as fact despite unknown and unreliable sources?” asked Alastair Gale, the Wall Street Journal’s Seoul correspondent, on Twitter.

We’ve been down this road before. After the dog execution story, the Washington Post wrote an article discussing this phenomenon. “This seems to be a problem particular to stories out of North Korea, about which almost any story is treated as broadly credible, no matter how outlandish or thinly sourced. There’s no other country to which we bring such a high degree of gullibility… We know so little about what really happens inside the country, and especially inside the leader’s head, that very little is disprovable. But the things we do know are often so bizarre that just about anything can seem possible.”

In journalism school, students are taught the five factors of newsworthiness: timing, significance, proximity, prominence, and human interest. Other professors added a final, key marker of newsworthiness – novelty. Is it odd? Unexpected? Maybe a little ridiculous? That can also be worth a story.

That’s exactly where these crazy stories about North Korea fit – and exactly what makes them so dangerous.

Take this week’s big story, for example. For the last few days, headlines have been proclaiming that Kim Jong Un executed two high-level officials using an anti-aircraft gun. Their supposed crime? Sleeping and slouching during meetings.

This story was picked up in dozens of major news outlets, all running similar astonished headlines. It’s not until the second or third paragraph, however, that the reporter mentions the fact that this news has not been confirmed. In fact, the South Korean newspaper who first reported the story relied on a single, anonymous source.

At least they were upfront about the possibility that this didn’t actually happen, right? Unfortunately, that’s just not good enough. According to a recent study from Columbia University, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never been clicked – meaning most people share stories without actually reading past the headline.

So what? What does it matter if people mistakenly think that Kim Jong Un is running around executing his generals with an anti-aircraft gun?

Well, besides the obvious implications for the stability of the country and the state of mind of a dangerous dictator, it creates a vicious cycle of confirmation bias that can become extremely difficult to break.

Confirmation bias is an important force in psychology – in essence, it means that people tend to see only evidence that confirms what they already think about a topic and ignore contradictory information. In this case, once people see several headlines about Kim Jong Un’s crazy antics, that is the paradigm that becomes set in people’s minds. And that paradigm makes it incredibly difficult to take North Korea seriously as a dangerous threat to global security and as a proven offender of countless gross human rights violations.

There is an easy way to stop this confirmation bias – by fact checking these reports before putting them to press. However, for journalist this can be a difficult task. The North Korean government can be an information black hole, as noted by Reporters Without Borders. North Korea has ranked near the bottom of their press freedom index since its creation. Few visa are granted for foreign press by the government, and those that are granted are closely watched by minders that restrict what they can report. Even depending on eye witness reporting, which has become popular in the age of Twitter and Facebook live streaming, is impossible because there is no internet for the public.

The lack of information from the North Korean government and its people leads reporters to rely on foreign governments to verify reports. But this creates its own issues, as those sources may use information to their advantage. Adding an additional layer of confusion is North Korea itself, which routinely sends out hyperbolic announcements about their miracle cures for cancer and the like. In the end, journalists end up filling this information vacuum with unsubstantiated news stories that are more viral than factual.

In addition, some may be wary of not reporting a big story just because it can’t be confirmed. During WWII, the public famously ignored reports about concentration camps because they sounded too unbelievable – but of course we know now that those reports turned out to be true.

All of this is not meant to say that journalists should not cover North Korea, in fact quite the opposite. They should just be aware of the power of sensational headlines and unconfirmed information. When it comes to North Korea, confirmation is particularly difficult, but also particularly important. Because it is so closed off, media reports are often the only way for people to learn about North Korea at all. Let’s make sure what they learn is actually true.

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications and Chris Hurst is an intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from stephan’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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And Then There Were Two: What Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have said about Korea

With the Democratic and Republican presumptive nominees now identified, here is our comprehensive list of what the two candidates have said about the Korean peninsula since the beginning of the race.

Hillary Clinton

  • June 2, 2016 – “Take the threat posed by North Korea – perhaps the most repressive regime on the planet, run by a sadistic dictator who wants to develop long-range missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon to the United States. When I was Secretary of State, we worked closely with our allies Japan and South Korea to respond to this threat, including by creating a missile defense system that stands ready to shoot down a North Korean warhead, should its leaders ever be reckless enough to launch one at us. The technology is ours. Key parts of it are located on Japanese ships. All three countries contributed to it. And this month, all three of our militaries will run a joint drill to test it. That’s the power of allies.”
  • June 2, 2016 – “And it’s no small thing when he [Trump] suggests that America should withdraw our military support for Japan, encourage them to get nuclear weapons, and said this about a war between Japan and North Korea – and I quote – ‘If they do, they do. Good luck, enjoy yourself, folks.’ I wonder if he even realizes he’s talking about nuclear war.”
  • June 2, 2016 – “And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald’s bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America. He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength. He said, “You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit” for taking over North Korea – something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie. And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A.”
  • May 26, 2016 – “Because look at what Trump has said in recent days. He has attacked our closest ally, Great Britain. He has praised the dangerous dictator of North Korea. Now, this is a little funny though, he praised Kim Jong-un, and the North Korean ambassador to the UN came out yesterday and said they don’t want to talk to Donald Trump. I mean, I don’t attribute a lot of good sense to that regime but that’s probably the right decision.”
  • May 8, 2016 – “Being a loose cannon means saying that other nations should go ahead and acquire nuclear weapons for themselves — when that is the last thing we need in the world today…Being a loose cannon is saying we should pull out of NATO — the strongest military alliance in the history of the world, and something that we really need to modernize, but not abandon.”
  • February 4, 2016 – “We do have to worry about North Korea. They continue to develop their nuclear weapons capability, and they’re working very hard on their ballistic missile capability. And, I know that some of those plans could very well lead to a missile that might reach Hawaii, if not the West Coast. We do have to try to get the countries in the region to work with us to do everything we can to confine, and constrain them.”
  • February 4, 2016 – “I did help to renegotiate the trade agreement that we inherited from President Bush with Korea. We go the UAW on board because of changes we made. So there are changes that I believe would make a real difference if they could be achieved, but I do not currently support it as it is written.”
  • January 6, 2016 – “I strongly condemn North Korea’s apparent nuclear test. If verified, this is a provocative and dangerous act, and North Korea must have no doubt that we will take whatever steps are necessary to defend ourselves and our treaty allies, South Korea and Japan. Threats like this are yet another reminder of what’s at stake in this election. We cannot afford reckless, imprudent publicity stunts that risk war. We need a Commander-in-Chief with the experience and judgement to deal with a dangerous North Korea on Day One.”
  • January 6, 2016 – “If verified, this is a provocative and dangerous act, and North Korea must have no doubt that we will take whatever steps are necessary to defend ourselves and our treaty allies, South Korea and Japan,” Clinton said. “North Korea’s goal is to blackmail the world into easing the pressure on its rogue regime.”


Donald Trump

  • May 27, 2016 – “I watched her [Clinton] last night and she lies so much, and she was saying last night, ‘Donald Trump wants to see Japan get nuclear weapons. He wants to see South Korea arm themselves and get nuclear weapons. I never said that.”

QUESTION: “This past week a lot of people are confused because you’re talking about, sounding like Obama, saying you would go to North Korea, you’d talk to the North Koreans…”

TRUMP: “I wouldn’t go to North Korea, Joe, I wouldn’t go there. The last thing I’d do is go – I would never go to North Korea I don’t know who would say I would go there.”

QUESTION: “Ok you won’t go there, you’ll talk to the North Korean leader.”

TRUMP: “Yes I would.”

TRUMP: “As far as Japan and South Korea are concerned, all I’m saying is, we defend them. They are paying us a tiny fraction of what it’s costing. I want them to pay—I would love to continue to defend Japan, I would love to continue to defend South Korea, we have 28,000 soldiers on the line between North and South Korea right now, it is costing us an absolute fortune which we don’t have, we’re a debtor nation. I would like them to pay up. They have a lot of money, both of those nations. We take in Japan’s cars by the millions, South Korea sells us, every time you buy televisions –

QUESTION: “So you don’t have a problem with the troops staying there, you just want Japan and South Korea to pay us for our presence.”

TRUMP: “I want them to pay up. This isn’t 40 years ago and 20 years ago. We are not a country that can afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Germany, the NATO nations, 28 NATO nations, many of which are not paying us and they’re not living up to their agreement, Japan, South Korea, we’re like the dummies that protect everybody. All I’m saying is, we have to get reimbursed because we can’t afford it.”

  • May 17, 2016 – “I would speak to him [Kim Jong Un], I would have no problem speaking to him.”
  • April 28, 2016 — “You tell them [China], we are going to – either you are going to have to straighten out this North Korea problem or we are not going to be doing so much business with you…Here is what we do. China has tremendous power over North Korea, tremendous, beyond anybody. Now they do not tell us that. They like to tweak us and say, well, we do not really. They have total control. China cannot even survive without us because economically they have been ripping us for many years to come. They have been sucking our blood… They do not do so much business with us, they would have a depression the likes of which you have ever seen. We have tremendous power, economic power over China. I want to get along with China. We are going to get along with China. But China can strangle because it comes in through China. And China is powerful. China can strangle North Korea. It can make them – bring them to the table.”
  • April 27, 2016 – “President Obama watches helplessly as North Korea increases its aggression and expands even further with its nuclear reach. Our president has allowed China to continue its economic assault on American jobs and wealth, refusing to enforce trade rules – or apply the leverage on China necessary to rein in North Korea.”
  • April 2, 2016 – “I would rather have them [Japan and South Korea] not arm, but I’m not going to continue to lose this tremendous amount of money. And frankly, the case could be made that let them protect themselves against North Korea. They’d probably wipe them out pretty quick… If they fight, you know what, that’d be a terrible thing. Terrible. But if they do, they do.”

QUESTION: “You want them [Japan] to have a nuclear weapon?”

TRUMP: “We spend a fortune on defending South Korea. Now I order thousands and — thousands of television sets here, they come from South Korea. They make so much.  They’re making a fortune.  They’re a behemoth.  So is Germany.  Why are we defending them? Why aren’t they reimbursing us?  Why aren’t they paying a good portion of the costs? They’re going to get it because it’s in their best interest. If we have to walk, we have to walk.”

QUESTION: By the way, you said the other day about South Korea and Japan maybe having to develop their own nuclear weapons capabilities?”

TRUMP: “No, what I said is, ‘I’ll keep it the way it is but they have to pay their fair share.’ Just so you understand, South Korea is a behemoth.  They make so much.  The ships of the world, the great ships of the world — you can’t buy televisions anymore unless you go to South Korea  — other than Sony which is in Japan.”

QUESTION: “But you know what, the last time we pulled troops of the 38th parallel, we had a problem, it’s the Korean War.  So I really want to – we shouldn’t be pulling troops…”

TRUMP: “I’ll tell you — I’ll tell you — I’ll tell what — the Korean War.  OK, so we compete with South Korea — I have buildings in South Korea, I get along great with the people in South Korea.  Do you know that the top people cannot believe — of course, they didn’t know I was going to be running for president — they used to tell me — they don’t tell me that anymore — they cannot believe they get away with what they get away with.”

QUESTION: “You said you worried about the proliferation of nuclear weapons…You also said, though, that you might support Japan and South Korea developing nuclear weapons of their own.  Isn’t that completely contradictory?”

TRUMP:  No, not at all.  Look, you have North Korea has nuclear weapons.  And he doesn’t have a carrier yet but he has got nuclear weapons.  He soon will have.  We don’t want to pull the trigger.  We’re just – you know, we have a president, frankly, that doesn’t – nobody is afraid of our president.  Nobody respects our president. You take a look at what’s going on throughout the world.  It’s not the country that it was.

QUESTION:  But if you’re concerned about proliferation, letting other countries get nuclear weapons, isn’t that proliferation?

TRUMP:  No, no.  We owe $19 $trillion, we have another $2 trillion because of the very, very bad omnibus budget that was just signed.  It’s a disgrace, which gives everything that Obama wanted.  We get nothing.  They get everything.

So that’s going to be $21 trillion.  We are supporting nations now, militarily, we are supporting nations like Saudi Arabia which was making during the good oil days which was a year ago, now they’re making less but still a lot, $1 billion a day.

We are supporting them, militarily, and pay us a fraction, a fraction of what they should be paying us and of the cost.  We are supporting Japan.  Most people didn’t even know that.  Most people didn’t know that we are taking care of Japan’s military needs.  We’re supporting Germany.  We’re supporting South Korea.  I order thousands of television sets because I am in the real estate business, you know, in my other life, OK.

QUESTION:  “It has been a U.S. policy for decades to prevent Japan from getting a nuclear weapon. South Korea as well.”

TRUMP:  “Can I be honest are you?  Maybe it’s going to have to be time to change, because so many people, you have Pakistan has it, you have China has it.  You have so many other countries are now having it…”

QUESTION:  “So some proliferation is OK?”

TRUMP:  “No, no, not proliferation.  I hate nuclear more than any.  My uncle was a professor was at MIT, he used to tell me about the problem.”

QUESTION:  “But that’s contradictory about Japan and South Korea.”

TRUMP:  “Excuse me, one of the dumbest I’ve ever seen signed ever, ever, ever by anybody, Iran is going to have it within 10 years.  Iran is going to have it.  I thought it was a very good interview in The New York Times.

QUESTION:  “So you have no problem with Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons.”

TRUMP:  “At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have…”

QUESTION:  “Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?”

TRUMP:  “Saudi Arabia, absolutely.”

QUESTION:  “You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?”

TRUMP:  “No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us. Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.”

QUESTION:  “So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?”

TRUMP:  “Can I be honest with you?  It’s going to happen, anyway.  It’s going to happen anyway.  It’s only a question of time.  They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them. Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?  And they do have them.  They absolutely have them.  They can’t – they have no carrier system yet but they will very soon. Wouldn’t you rather have Japan, perhaps, they’re over there, they’re very close, they’re very fearful of North Korea, and we’re supposed to protect.”

QUESTION: “So you’re saying you don’t want more nuclear weapons in the world but you’re OK with Japan and South Korea having nuclear weapons?”

TRUMP: “I don’t want more nuclear weapons.  I think that – you know, when I hear Obama get up and say the biggest threat to the world today is global warming, I say, is this guy kidding? The only global warming – the only global warming I’m worried about is nuclear global warming because that’s the single biggest threat.  So it’s not that I’m a fan – we can’t afford it anymore.  We’re sitting on a tremendous bubble.  We’re going to be – again, $21 trillion.  We don’t have money.”

QUESTION:  “So you have no security concerns about Japan or South Korea getting nuclear weapons?”

TRUMP: “Anderson, when you see all of the money that our country is spending on military, we’re not spending it for ourselves; we’re protecting all of these nations all over the world.  We can’t afford to do it anymore.”

QUESTION: “But isn’t there benefit for the United States in having a secure Europe.  Isn’t there benefit for the United States in having a secure Asia.”

TRUMP:  “There’s a benefit, but not big enough to bankrupt and destroy the United States, because that’s what’s happening.  We can’t afford it.  It’s very simple. Now, I would rather see Japan having some form of defense, and maybe even offense, against North Korea.  Because we’re not pulling the trigger.  The bottom line on North Korea is china, if they wanted to, they’re a tremendous supplier of North Korea.  They have tremendous power over North Korea.  If they wanted to, if they weren’t toying with us, Anderson, China would be the one that would get in and could make a deal in one day, okay.”

  • March 26, 2016 – “Well, you know, at some point, there is going to be a point at which we just can’t do this anymore. And, I know the upsides and the downsides. But right now we’re protecting, we’re basically protecting Japan, and we are, every time North Korea raises its head, you know, we get calls from Japan and we get calls from everybody else, and “Do something.” And there’ll be a point at which we’re just not going to be able to do it anymore. Now, does that mean nuclear? It could mean nuclear. It’s a very scary nuclear world. Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation. At the same time, you know, we’re a country that doesn’t have money. You know, when we did these deals, we were a rich country. We’re not a rich country. We were a rich country with a very strong military and tremendous capability in so many ways. We’re not anymore. We have a military that’s severely depleted. We have nuclear arsenals which are in very terrible shape. They don’t even know if they work.”

QUESTION: “The Japanese view has always been, if the United States, at any point, felt as if it was uncomfortable defending them, there has always been a segment of Japanese society, and of Korean society that said, ‘Well, maybe we should have our own nuclear deterrent, because if the U.S. isn’t certain, we need to make sure the North Koreans know that.’ Is that a reasonable position? Do you think at some point they should have their own arsenal?”

TRUMP: “Well, it’s a position that we have to talk about, and it’s a position that at some point is something that we have to talk about, and if the United States keeps on its path, its current path of weakness, they’re going to want to have that anyway with or without me discussing it, because I don’t think they feel very secure in what’s going on with our country, David. You know, if you look at how we backed our enemies, it hasn’t – how we backed our allies – it hasn’t exactly been strong. When you look at various places throughout the world, it hasn’t been very strong. And I just don’t think we’re viewed the same way that we were 20 or 25 years ago, or 30 years ago. And, you know, I think it’s a problem. You know, something like that, unless we get very strong, very powerful and very rich, quickly, I’m sure those things are being discussed over there anyway without our discussion.”

QUESTION: “And would you have an objection to it?”

TRUMP: “Um, at some point, we cannot be the policeman of the world. And unfortunately, we have a nuclear world now. And you have, Pakistan has them. You have, probably, North Korea has them. I mean, they don’t have delivery yet, but you know, probably, I mean to me, that’s a big problem. And, would I rather have North Korea have them with Japan sitting there having them also? You may very well be better off if that’s the case. In other words, where Japan is defending itself against North Korea, which is a real problem. You very well may have a better case right there. We certainly haven’t been able to do much with him and with North Korea. But you may very well have a better case. You know, one of the things with the, with our Japanese relationship, and I’m a big fan of Japan, by the way. I have many, many friends there. I do business with Japan. But, that, if we are attacked, they don’t have to do anything. If they’re attacked, we have to go out with full force. You understand. That’s a pretty one-sided agreement, right there. In other words, if we’re attacked, they do not have to come to our defense, if they’re attacked, we have to come totally to their defense. And that is a, that’s a real problem.”

QUESTION: “Would you be willing to withdraw U.S. forces from places like Japan and South Korea if they don’t increase their contribution significantly?”

TRUMP: “Yes, I would. I would not do so happily, but I would be willing to do it. Not happily. David actually asked me that question before, this morning before we sort of finalized out. The answer is not happily but the answer is yes. We cannot afford to be losing vast amounts of billions of dollars on all of this. We just can’t do it anymore. Now there was a time when we could have done it. When we started doing it. But we can’t do it anymore. And I have a feeling that they’d up the ante very much. I think they would, and if they wouldn’t I would really have to say yes.”

QUESTION: “So we talked a little this morning about Japan and South Korea, whether or not they would move to an independent nuclear capability. Just last week the United States removed from Japan, after a long negotiation, many bombs worth, probably 40 or more bombs worth of plutonium or highly enriched uranium that we provided them over the years. And that’s part of a very bipartisan effort to keep them from going nuclear. So I was a little surprised this morning when you said you would be open to them having their own nuclear deterrent. Certainly if you pull back one of the risks is that they would go nuclear.”

TRUMP: “You know you’re more right except for the fact that you have North Korea which is acting extremely aggressively, very close to Japan. And had you not had that, I would have felt much, I would have felt differently. You have North Korea, and we are very far away and we are protecting a lot of different people and I don’t know that we are necessarily equipped to protect them. And if we didn’t have the North Korea threat, I think I’d feel a lot differently, David….I think maybe it’s not so bad to have Japan — if Japan had that nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us.”

QUESTION: You mean if Japan had a nuclear weapon it wouldn’t be so bad for us?

TRUMP: Well, because of North Korea. Because of North Korea. Because we don’t know what he’s going to do. We don’t know if he’s all bluster or is he a serious maniac that would be willing to use it. I was talking about before, the deterrent in some people’s minds was that the consequence is so great that nobody would ever use it. Well that may have been true at one point but you have many people that would use it right now in this world.

QUESTION: For that reason, they may well need their own and not be able to just depend on us…

TRUMP: “I really believe that’s true. Especially because of the threat of North Korea. And they are very aggressive toward Japan. Well I mean look, he’s aggressive toward everybody. Except for China and Iran.

See we should use our economic power to have them disarm — now then it becomes different, then it becomes purely economic, but then it becomes different. China has great power over North Korea even though they don’t necessarily say that. Now, Iran, we had a great opportunity during this negotiation when we gave them the 150 billion and many other things. Iran is the No. 1 trading partner of North Korea. Now we could have put something in our agreement that they would have led the charge if we had people with substance and with brainpower and with some negotiating ability. But the No. 1 trading partner with North Korea is Iran. And we did a deal with them, and we just did a deal with them, and we don’t even mention North Korea in the deal. That was a great opportunity to put another five pages in the deal, or less, and they do have a great influence over North Korea. Same thing with China, China has great influence over North Korea but they don’t say they do because they’re tweaking us. I have this from Chinese. I have many Chinese friends, I have people of vast wealth, some of the most important people in China have purchased apartments from me for tens of millions of dollars and frankly I know them very well. And I ask them about their relationship to North Korea, these are top people. And they say we have tremendous power over North Korea. I know they do. I think you know they do.”

QUESTION: “They signed on to the most recent sanctions, more aggressive sanctions than we thought the Chinese would agree to.”

TRUMP: “Well that’s good, but, I mean I know they did, but I think that they have power beyond the sanctions.”

QUESTION: “So you would advocate that they have to turn off the oil to North Korea basically.”

TRUMP: “So much of their lifeblood comes through China, that’s the way it comes through. They have tremendous power over North Korea, but China doesn’t say that. China says well we’ll try. I can see them saying, “We’ll try, we’ll try.” And I can see them laughing in the room next door when they’re together. So China should be talking to North Korea. But China’s tweaking us. China’s toying with us. They are when they’re building in the South China Sea. They should not be doing that but they have no respect for our country and they have no respect for our president. So, and the other one, and this is an opportunity passed because why would Iran go back and renegotiate it having to do with North Korea?But Iran is the No. 1 trading partner, but we should have had something in that document that was signed having to do with North Korea as the No. 1 trading partner and as somebody with a certain power because of that. A very substantial power over North Korea.”

QUESTION: “Mr. Trump with all due respect, I think it’s China that’s the No. 1 trading partner with North Korea.”

TRUMP: “I’ve heard that certainly, but I’ve also heard from other sources that it’s Iran…Well that is true but I’ve heard it both ways. They are certainly major arms exchangers, which in itself is terrible that we would make a deal with somebody that’s a major arms exchanger with North Korea. But had that deal not been done and they were desperate to do it, and they wanted to do it much more so than we know in my opinion, meaning Iran wanted to make the deal much more than we know. We should have backed off that deal, doubled the sanctions and made a real deal. And part of that deal should have been that Iran would help us with North Korea. So, the bottom line is, I think that frankly, as long as North Korea’s there, I think that Japan having a capability is something that maybe is going to happen whether we like it or not.”

  • February 26, 2016 – “I think that we are now in a position — are $19 trillion dollars because of the horrible omnibus budget that was approved six weeks ago, it’s going to be $21 trillion dollars. We can no longer defend all of these countries, Japan, Germany, South Korea. You order televisions, you order almost anything, you’re getting it from these countries. Whether it’s a Mercedes-Benz, or whether it’s an air conditioning unit. They’re coming out of these countries. They are making a fortune. Saudi Arabia, we are defending Saudi Arabia. Before the oil went down, now they’re making less, but they’re making plenty. They were making $1 billion dollars a day. We defend all of these countries for peanuts. You talk about budgets. We have to start getting reimbursed for taking care of the military services for all of these countries.”
  • February 10, 2016 — “I would get China to make that guy [Kim Jong Un] disappear in one form or another very quickly…Well, you know, I’ve heard of worse things, frankly. I mean this guy’s a bad dude — and don’t underestimate him. Any young guy that can take over from his father with all those generals and everybody else that probably wants the position, this is not somebody to be underestimated.”
  • February 10, 2016 – “China has control, absolute control of North Korea. They don’t say it, but they do, and they should make that problem disappear. China is sucking us dry. They’re taking our money, they’re taking our jobs and doing so much. We have rebuilt China with what they’ve taken out. We have power over China. China should do that…I wouldn’t leave it up to [the Chinese]. I would say, ‘You gotta do it. You gotta do it.”
  • February 10, 2016 – “The closest partner of North Korea is Iran. Why didn’t we put something in there when we’re making a deal, and we’re giving them $150 billion — why didn’t we do something with Iran where Iran gets in, and we force Iran to get in and do something with North Korea? We don’t do anything. We should have, when we made that deal. That deal is a horror show. It’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen.”
  • February 6, 2016 – “China says they don’t have that good of control over North Korea. They have tremendous control. I deal with the Chinese all of the time. I do tremendous — the largest bank in the world is in one of my buildings in Manhattan. I deal with them. They tell me. They have total, absolute control, practically, of North Korea. They are sucking trillions of dollars out of our country — they’re rebuilding China with the money they take out of our country. I would get on with China, let China solve that problem. They can do it quickly and surgically. That’s what we should do with North Korea.”
  • January 10, 2016 – “I mean, you’ve got this mad man (Kim Jong-un) playing around with the nukes and it has got to end. He’s certainly — he could be a total nut job, frankly.”
  • January 10, 2016 – ‘If you look at North Korea, this guy, I mean, he’s like a maniac, OK? You’ve got to give him credit. How many young guys – he was like 25 or 26 when his father died – take over these tough generals. How does he do that?’
  • January 6, 2016 –“China has total control, believe me, they say they don’t, they have total control over North Korea, and China should solve that problem, and if they don’t solve the problem, we should make trade very difficult with China. Because we are, believe it, we are holding China up. They’re taking so much money. They’re training our country, and they’re toying with us with North Korea. So, North Korea is totally under the control, without China, they wouldn’t eat.”
  • January 6, 2016 – “I’d get South Korea — that’s making a fortune, they’re our trading partner, if you want to use the word ‘partner,’ “We get almost nothing for what we do. We defend the world. We defend so many countries. We get nothing. They get everything. We get nothing. South Korea’s going to have to start ponying up, OK? And we’ll do it in a very nice manner. They’ll like us even more than they like us now.”
  • January 6, 2016 – “It’s something I’ve been talking about for a long time. You have this madman over there who probably would use it,” Trump said during an interview on “Fox & Friends.” “And nobody talks to him, other than of course Dennis Rodman,” he said. “That’s about it.”
  • November 10, 2015 – “We worry about Iranian nukes but why not North Korean nukes? It’s not only Russia [that we’re having trouble with]. We have problems with North Korea where they actually have nuclear weapons. You know, nobody talks about it, we talk about Iran, and that’s one of the worst deals ever made. One of the worst contracts ever signed, ever, in anything, and it’s a disgrace. But, we have somebody over there, a madman, who already has nuclear weapons we don’t talk about that.”
  • September 16, 2015 – “And nobody ever mentions North Korea where you have this maniac sitting there and he actually has nuclear weapons and somebody better start thinking about North Korea and perhaps a couple of other places. But certainly North Korea. And Ted and I have spoken. We’ve — a lot of us have spoken. We’re talking about Iran. They are bad actors, bad things are going to happen. But in the meantime, you have somebody right now in North Korea who has got nuclear weapons and who is saying almost every other week, I’m ready to use them. And we don’t even mention it.”
  • August 23, 2015 – “You know it’s heating up again, so, we send our ships. I think South Korea’s great. I think it’s wonderful. I just order 4,000 television sets for a job that I’m doing, right? And guess what? Between Samsung, and LG, and Sharp, they all come from South Korea…They’re making a fortune. So, we send our troops, we’re getting ready to go in there and defend them. And we get nothing! It’s like crazy. We get nothing. Why are we getting nothing? Why aren’t they helping us, okay? We help them.”
  • August 23, 2015 – “And you know, we have this mad guy [Kim Jong Un], I guess he’s mad, either he’s mad or he’s a genius, one or the other, but he’s actually more unstable, even than his father, they say. They said the father was a pleasure by comparison to him, in North Korea.”
  • July 23, 2015 – “How long will we go on defending South Korea from North Korea without payment? When will they start to pay us?”

Photos from Gage Skidmore’s photostream on flickr Creative Commmons.

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