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  • Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’

    Persuading Pyongyang: A Non-Confidential Memo for the Trump-Kim Talks

    April 19th, 2018  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    Persuading Pyongyang: A Non-Confidential Memo for the Trump-Kim Talks

    By Jasper Kim

    Jasper Kim, JD/MBA, is the author of Persuasion: The Hidden Forces That Influence Negotiations (Routledge 2018). He is a lawyer, former investment banker, and Director of the Center for Conflict Management at Ewha University in Seoul, Korea. He was a former visiting scholar at Harvard University and Stanford University. Follow him on Twitter: @JasperKim101.
     
    APG note: this blog is a partial version of the full CNN article found here.
     
    The two most dramatic political figures in modern history—US president Donald Trump and the DPRK’s Kim Jong Un—have agreed in principle to meet in face-to-face negotiations. Will the Trump-Kim talks lead to an epic battle with only one man standing to claim victory? Or could the first talks between a sitting US president and North Korea’s leader culminate towards cooperation?
     
    To Trump, who famously quipped that “Everything is negotiable,” he likely sees the talks as transactional within the broader strokes of the “art of the deal.” Trump’s background hails from the world of high stakes real estate deals in New York. A leader knowingly or unknowingly takes such experience and outlook to higher office. This may be why Trump believes he must always exude uber-confidence and strength. The world, as viewed from his purview, exists in a Hobbesian state, a law of the jungle that can fluctuate wildly and precariously. Thus, his modus operandi is: a good offense is the best defense. No middle ground exists. You are either in the fight club or not.
     
    All the while, Kim Jong Un is watching. So what could North Korea’s Supreme Leader be thinking regarding the prospect of negotiating with Trump who previously proclaimed, “I’m really a great negotiator, I know how to negotiate, I like making deals”? It could be that Kim now views Trump with an increasing level of recognition and respect, formed by watching the commander-in-chief in action since taking office. Based on such observations from Kim’s line of sight, when it comes to the use of possible force, Trump seems like he could truly mean what he says. And this could be the ultimate wake-up call for Kim. If a Stalinist-inspired leader understands one thing, it is the use of force.
     
    A fear factor is also at play within such recognition and respect. In fact, the fear factor is arguably what is driving Kim and Trump together towards the same path of direct talks. They both, albeit reluctantly, now fear and respect each other to the point where neither one sees a more viable option than entering into negotiations. In an ironic twist, both also share similar negotiation tactics. Trump and Kim have each made audacious claims towards a course of action, from constructing walls to launching missile tests, that embolden key domestic audiences. They may not like or trust one other, but Trump and Kim can certainly understand each other.
     
    In a high-stakes negotiation game of one-on-one, tit-for-tat, one-upsmanship, both Trump and Kim increased their rhetoric to the seemingly very outer limits. This was their way of stress-testing the other’s mettle. But neither has blinked in this ultimate game of chicken set at the world stage for all to see. However, perhaps intentionally or accidentally, such actions and fear factor have led to an unlikely state of mutual recognition and respect. Both view the other as having the real potential to take action if perceived as being ignored, slighted, or disrespected. At the same time, Kim and Trump realize that a possible next step in escalation across a fuzzy, undefined, and blurry redline would not yield any benefit for either side. Crossing such redline would lead to a more than likely mutually-assured destruction (MAD) outcome. Of course, based on iterated war game simulations, the US would win such a conflict. But the more calibrated question is: “win” at what cost, economically, reputationally, and in terms of how many lives lost?
     
    From Kim Jong Un’s perspective, his world is a Stalinist world largely frozen in time since the 1950-53 Korean War. Like Trump, Kim also sees the world in Hobbesian terms. To protect himself and his homeland, Kim wants nuclear weapons as a protective shield, similar to how a person may want a gun to safeguard his or her home. Kim also wants economic assistance to protect himself and those loyal to him. But the savvy negotiator’s question is not “what” a person wants, but “why” a person wants it. Such framing shift prompts a negotiation paradigm shift from a competitive (distributive, win-lose) mindset to a cooperative (integrative, win-win) mindset.
     
    Given this, the fundamental questions should also shift from positional-based questions—such as the number of nuclear weapons North Korea may want, or the number of US troops remaining in South Korea—to instead ask “why” interest-based questions often hiding and lurking underneath such positions. Why, for instance, would a secluded state want nuclear weapons, akin to why would a person want a weapon for protection at home? If it is fear of aggression, what is the best solution to remedy such fear? These are often the invisible influencers in a negotiation Yet despite Trump and Kim’s seeming positional differences, both share some common interests, from selflessly altruistic to purely self-focused. These range from securing peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region to cementing their respective legacies.
     

     

    “Decoding Kim Jong-un: What North Korea’s Leader Wants” (Forbes op-ed, Jasper Kim)

    February 14th, 2017  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    Below is a truncated version of the original Forbes op-ed piece.
     
    For the full Forbes op-ed, click HERE
     
    This weekend, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un fired not just his country’s first missile test since U.S. President Donald Trump took office this year, he also fired the opening shot in a high-stakes negotiation match between two seemingly unpredictable alpha male world leaders.
     
    So why did North Korea conduct a launch in the very early days of Trump’s presidency?
     
    Kim wants to test his counterpart’s mettle: What will he do? What will he not do? Could Trump ever be trusted? These are the questions in Kim’s head.
     
    So why did North Korea conduct a launch in the very early days of Trump’s presidency?
     
    Kim wants to test his counterpart’s mettle: What will he do? What will he not do? Could Trump ever be trusted? These are the questions in Kim’s head.
     
    Words or action?
     
    Sanctions as sticks are not working as hoped to compel good behavior . Could diplomacy vis-à-vis China work? At the end of the day, it’s unlikely that Beijing would be willing to cooperate with Washington given Trump’s apparent intransigence about China, along with growing evidence that the PRC may be having less sway over the DPRK.
     
    Could then a pre-emptive military strike be a feasible option? In short, given that South Korea’s capital of Seoul has approximately ten million residents sitting in the backyard of the DMZ, which acts as a thin buffer between the two Koreas, the possible military and economic ramifications are too vast to justify a risky military encounter.
     
    This is why Kim finds himself relatively unrestrained from ordering missile test after missile test despite international outcry and sanctions. In fact, such outcries and sanctions are the very justification Kim needs to solidify his power base to his negotiation audience — his inside circle of advisers and elderly military leaders — that the outside world is truly “hostile” to their homeland.
     
    Direct appeal
     
    But perhaps there may be a better alternative to military strikes and more sanctions — why not speak directly to Kim himself to find out what he wants?
     
    A negotiation is defined as “getting what you want.” And most successful negotiations occur when both sides get at least a little of what they want. But too often, even the most experienced parties make sweeping one-size-fits-all assumptions about what the other’s demands are. As studies show, we see things as we are, rather than as they are. In other words, people superimpose their wants, fears, and values onto those with whom they are dealing.
     
    Past and perhaps even current U.S. officials have assumed that Kim is all about ruthless self-preservation. Others claim he wants a peace treaty, strong economy — even reunification. Statements from the North’s state-run KCNA news agency can also be viewed as negotiable first offers packaged in bombastic bluster.
     
    Which of these does North Korea’s leader want? We simply need more information to know. After all, information is power in negotiations.
     
    But rather than making broad-sweeping assumptions, a simpler and more effective approach exists: Just ask.
     
    For the amount of resources, lives, and security risks involved, the amount of direct communication between Kim and the most senior U.S. leaders commensurate to North Korean leader’s level of seniority have been negligent to nil. From the perspective of the Confucian and Stalinist-driven mindset of this young leader, it’s critical that a presidential level leader be present in the room. After all, the messenger is the message.

     
     
    If interested in how Asia-Pacific Global Research Group’s consultancy and training expertise can help your organization, CONTACT US HERE.
     
     
     

    How did Trump Win the Presidency?: By Thinking Like a Negotiator (Lessons

    November 18th, 2016  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

     trump-asia-powerpnt_2016-11-11_13-15-36
     
    In ancient Greece—the genesis of Western civilization and thinking—the Greek goddess Athena was known to be the securer of “victory.” She also awarded the dealmakers that brought forth victory. In Oresteia, the Greek goddess Athena proclaims, “I admire…the eyes of persuasion.”
     
    Viewed from an apolitical lens, the Greek goddess would have certainly admired the persuasion, tactics and strategy underlying Donald Trump’s US presidential bid that brought forth an unlikely victory.
     
    To Trump’s supporters, comprised of a diverse voting group including both rich and poor, his victory was an affirmation of Trump’s call to arms against political elites and the perception that America could be great again. To Trump’s critics, his victory was a complete and utter shock that seemed to defy all odds.
     
    To some political pundits and so-called political experts—many who belittled, criticized and grossly underestimated Trump at every turn–it became clear that they needed an update. Their expert predictions and assumptions were outdated and antiquated, advising that future elections should be similar to past elections in terms of tone and rhetoric.
     
    But meanwhile, while these so-called experts were sleeping, the world became flat and hyper-connected due to unforeseen technological tectonic shifts. In the advent of today’s “super-social” era–in which communication is dominated by 140 crafted characters through platforms such as Twitter and Facebook—such weathered expert experience ultimately translated into a net liability, rather than an asset.
     
    So how did Trump win the US presidency? By thinking like a negotiator.
     
    This then begs the question: What exactly is a “negotiation”? According to the Harvard Negotiation Project, a negotiation is defined as “Getting what you want.”
     
    Trump is a self-proclaimed negotiator and dealmaker. He has authored books such as The Art of the Deal, while proclaiming in a recent interview that, “Everything’s negotiable.”
     
    As such, during Trump’s campaign, he was in constant negotiations—with the Republican Party, Democratic Party, the media, and the voting public—to get what he wanted. At each level, Trump was waging a “David versus Goliath” negotiation war, from his purview, in which each and all of these “negotiation opponents” were, at one point or another, against him.
     
    Think for a moment what Trump’s victory, a high-stakes negotiation game, entailed. Since 1988, apart from the current president, the political landscape was dominated by just two family names: Clinton and Bush.
     
    Trump—a political newcomer, but not one with negotiation naiveté–slayed both family dragons in the course of a single election cycle.
     
    Should you be worried or concerned that Trump is now President-elect Trump, given his tone and rhetoric on the campaign trail?
     
    Again, some so-called experts will provide a simple binary analysis for simple minds—a flat yes, that he is the precipice to a new era of an isolated America (rather than a continued era of Pax Americana)—or a flat no, that he will be the savior that America needs in a dangerous world.
     
    But a third, more nuanced and honest answer exists. We simply do not yet have enough information to give a credible answer. What type of information should we be waiting for then? Actual “evidence” in the form of tangible policy action once Trump is sworn in as the forty-fifth US president. Maybe Trump will be great, maybe not. But much like a courtroom, you would not want a judgment about you made against you before the evidence has been thoughtfully and impartially adjudicated.
     
    And what about all of Trump’s seemingly fiery campaign statements? As savvy negotiators know, first statements are often mere first offers.
     
    Trump views everything through a negotiation and dealmaking lens. This will have implications in the US and other regions, including in Asia.
     
    How will a President Trump deal with North Korea’s regime? It looks like Trump would not be completely adverse to face-to-face negotiations with Kim Jong-Un. After all, in any negotiation, to get what you want, you have to know what the other side wants.
     
    How will a President Trump deal with Beijing when it comes to trade? Hopefully, a President Trump will understand the basic negotiation lesson in a tit-for-tat (TFT) negotiation, which often leads to a lose-lose scenario involving mutually-assured destruction (MAD). In such a prisoner’s dilemma scenario, it often benefits both sides to cooperate rather than compete.
     
    As former US President John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”

     
     
     
    If interested in how Asia-Pacific Global Research Group’s consultancy and training expertise can help your organization, CONTACT US HERE.
     
     
     

    North Korea vs. Human Rights: A Brief History of the NK Human Rights Act

    November 14th, 2014  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

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    Recent efforts to pressure North Korea to improve its human rights conditions through the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI), which among other things, could lead to a UN resolution or ICC referral, has seemingly hit a sensitive spot within North Korea. However, prior to this, little substantive progress was made, in part, due to North Korea’s hard-line stance to its human rights conditions.
     
    Nearly a decade ago, U.S. legislation was enacted on October 18, 2004 known as the North Korean Human Rights Act. The passage of this Act marked a new and notable phase within the nuclear non-proliferation talks, whereby the issue of human rights was
    directly linked to the issue of North Korean nuclear non-proliferation in a Helsinki-style approach.
     
    The full text of the North Korean Human Rights Act can be viewed HERE.
     
    In form, the Act seeks to provide increased aid, monitoring efforts, and
    humanitarian relief to North Korea in the spirit of furthering human rights
    development within the DPRK. In substance, the North Korean Human Rights
    Act attempts to place greater diplomatic and legal pressure on the Kim Jong Un
    regime to improve its human rights record. At the same time, the Act also represents
    a possible negotiation strategy attempt to box in and make the DPRK regime more
    transparent with stipulated requirements for verifiable behavior in compliance with
    the Act.
     
    By placing human rights as one of the primary items on the negotiation agenda
    in talks with North Korea, two main schools of thought exist: ‘‘universalism’’ and
    ‘‘cultural relativism,’’ in terms of the currently existing literature related to
    international human rights issues. Universalists argue that certain rights are
    ‘‘universal’’ and thus should be globally uniform, such as equal protection, physical
    security, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. Arguably, most of the language
    embedded in the North Korean Human Rights Act is based upon the ‘‘universalist’’
    rather than ‘‘cultural relativist’’ theory of human rights.
     
    One of the express purposes of the North Korean Human Rights Act is arguably
    to identify human rights as a major factor in future diplomacy between the United
    States and the DPRK, and for the region as a whole. For example, Section 101 of the
    Act notes, ‘‘It is the sense of Congress that the human rights of North Korea should
    remain a key element in future negotiations between the United States, North Korea,
    and other concerned parties in Northeast Asia.’’ It created the position of Special
    Envoy on Human Rights in North Korea with the responsibility of coordinating and
    promoting human rights efforts, and raising such issues with North Korean officials.
     
    The Act also specifically links non-humanitarian assistance to substantial
    progress in human rights in North Korea. For example, Section 202 identifies areas
    for improvement (i.e., basic human rights and freedoms, family reunification,
    information regarding abductees from Japan and South Korea, reform and
    independent monitoring of prisons and labor camps). It earmarks additional
    humanitarian and non-humanitarian assistance based upon improvements in such
    areas, but also threatens the withholding of such funds, present and future, in the
    event that evidence of improvements fails to emerge in North Korea. When such
    withholding of funds has occurred, at times, the DPRK, as a negotiation strategy,
    has become purposely more provocative in its actions, albeit verbally or through
    military exercises. In effect, this is a negotiation strategy of increasing (or as the case
    may be, creating) one’s ‘‘bargaining chips’’ to be later traded at the negotiation table
    for other items it may want or need.
     
    Efforts to directly incorporate universal human rights values into North Korea*
    with a government that typically sees human rights issues as varying, based on
    culture, and therefore non-universal*have often resulted in a negotiation clash of
    cultures by linking human rights with efforts related to North Korea, which have
    thus led to a further gap in related negotiations, such as the Six-Party Talks.
     
     
     
    If interested in how Asia-Pacific Global Research Group’s consultancy and training expertise can help your organization, CONTACT US HERE.
     

    Korea in 2014: Big 3 Impacts to Watch

    December 19th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    economy_1
     
    1. NORTH KOREA’S NEXT MOVE: North Korea could decide to initiate provocative acts in 2014, including the early part of the new year. The months of January and February are particularly noteworthy, since these months include dates commemorating the birth of both of the DPRK’s former leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Precedent also exists for such provocative acts. Earlier this year (in 2013), North Korea also tested its nuclear weapons technology at the start of the Chinese New Year, which both Koreas recognize and celebrate. Although the financial markets generally have not overreacted to North Korea’s often purposely provocative acts, given the high inter-linkage of the Asian markets, an unexpected known-unknown black swan event could lead to market surprise to the downside.
     
    2. BANK OF KOREA’S (BOK) KEY RATE HIKE: the BOK has left its key rate steady at 2.75% for seven consecutive months, as the local economy is showing signs of a moderate recovery amid tame inflation.But the BOK is likely to increase its rate in 2014. The BOK’s decision to keep its rate steady at the end of 2013 came as a set of data pointed to a moderate recovery of the Korean economy while the timing of the Federal Reserve’s monetary stimulus tapering still remains uncertain. The South Korean economy grew 1.1% on-quarter in the third quarter, the same pace as in the second quarter, on improving domestic demand and a pickup in facility investment. The country’s industrial output grew 1.8% on-month in October, the fastest gain in 11 months, indicating that the economy might be picking up. South Korea’s inflationary pressure remains subdued as consumer prices are running below the BOK’s 2.5-3.5% inflation target band for the 18th straight month in November. The on-year growth of consumer inflation picked up to 0.9% in November from 0.7% in October.
     
    3. REAL ESTATE AND CONSUMER DEBT MAY MOVE UPWARDS: The South Korean real estate market has been relatively static in 2013. But a pick up in the real estate market could occur based on relaxed policies in 2014. This potential positive upward movement in the nation’s residential real estate market, however, must also be managed with the nation’s burgeoning consumer debt levels. A survey of 20,000 households conducted jointly by the Bank of Korea (BOK), Statistics Korea and the Financial Services Commission showed households had an average debt of 58.1 million won ($55,000) in March, up 6.8% from the previous year. The debt of those households in the lowest-income group rose 24%, from 10 million to 12.4 million won, while the other groups, not including the richest, saw their average debt increase between 9.7 and 16.3%. Of households in debt, 8.1 percent said they may not be able to repay the money they owe, up from last year’s 7%. The survey showed that the lower a household’s income level, the higher the ratio of people who said repayment was unlikely.
     
     
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    Purge in Pyongyang: 5 Risks of North Korea’s Ouster of Its #2 Leader (Jang Song Thaek)

    December 13th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    WSJ interview segment with Korea specialist, Jasper Kim (December 13, 2013):
    YONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea said Friday that it executed Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek (장성택) as a traitor for trying to seize supreme power, a stunning end for the leader’s former mentor, long considered the country’s No. 2. Several days ago, North Korea accused Jang of corruption, womanizing, gambling and taking drugs, and said he’d been “eliminated” from all his posts. Jang also was accused of trying “to overthrow the state by all sorts of intrigues and despicable methods with a wild ambition to grab the supreme power of our party and state.”
     
    CNN interview segment with Korea specialist, Jasper Kim (December 13, 2013):

    Our view, at Asia-Pacific Global Research Group, is that Jang’s purge and subsequent execution is highly concerning for the following 5 reasons:
     
    1. LACK OF POLITICAL PROTECTION: One view among some analysts is that Jang’s purge reflects a strategic power consolidation effort by Kim Jong Un. However, we believe that with Jang no longer in the political picture, Kim Jong Un has very little political protection and sounding board/advisor, while also severing the cord between KJU and his father (which is more harmful than helpful since it is because of KJU’s blood line that enabled him to gain power). After all, his uncle Jang Song Thaek never, as far as we know, represented a credible threat to the leadership of his nephew, Kim Jong Un.
     
    2. IS IT KIM JONG UN OR THE MILITARY THAT TRULY OUSTED JANG?: Many analysts do not question whether the execution of Jang Song Thaek reflected the true intent and desires of Kim Jong Un or not. We believe the evidence as of yet is not fully persuasive that this was the case. Another scenario could exist, which may be as or less likely but still entirely possible, in which Kim Jong Un approved the execution of his uncle (Jang) due to the fact that Kim had no viable alternative due to tangible pressure from the military.
     
    3. LINGUISTIC HINTS AS POSSIBLE EVIDENCE: the substance and style of the language and wording used by the KCNA is one that is more reflective of diction that would be used by the military elements of the DPRK leadership than from Kim Jong Un himself. At the very least, a scenario could exist in which the military had an influential hand in terms of the announcement’s wording.
     
    4. WARNING SIGNAL TO PRC: Jang served as a symbolic bridge between the DPRK and PRC. Jang was also a supporter of PRC-type economic reforms. As such, Jang’s purge will place a grinding halt to any such similar suggested reforms and any such political progressive espousing such stance (i.e., it is not just one step, but many steps back). The PRC may also interpret Jang’s ouster as an anti-China political stance since Jang was a well known and generally liked figure in the PRC.
     
    5. IS THIS THE END OR JUST THE BEGINNING?: Jang’s purge represents a known-unknown variable in terms of what other internal struggles above and beyond the usual are occurring as we speak since Jang’s ouster would create an obvious power vacuum and/or ripple effect. Another risk exists in the form of future provocative acts by North Korea on the backdrop of such political reconstitution to either reflect away internal political strife or to show the international community that the DPRK is still acting under one rule. Either way, the international community should be prepared. The best case scenario is that the DPRK remains stable. The worst case scenario, albeit more remote, is one that involves a full-scale implosion.
     
     
    For a recent related CNN story North Korean execution raises more question than answers (featuring Korean experts, dJasper Kim and Andrei Lankov), click HERE.
     
     
    For a BBC World News interview (with Jasper Kim) regarding the Purge in Pyongyang, CLIDK HERE (interview begins at around the 7:30 min mark).
     
     
    If you are interested in how Asia-Pacific Global Research Group can help your organization, CONTACT US HERE.
     

    3 Reasons why North Korea repatriated 6 South Koreans

    October 29th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    South Korea’s Unification Ministry announced the return of the six men, aged between 27 and 67, at the truce village of Panmunjom Friday, along with the body of the South Korean wife of one of the defectors. The six South Korean citizens was a curious move by North Korea, in which the KCNA (Pyongyang’s official news agency) announced that it “leniently pardoned” the individuals prior to their release back to South Korea.
     
    In a continued series of predictably unpredictable (yet potentially rational) moves by one of the world’s most secretive and closed states, here are three things to know about North Korea’s latest move:
     
    1. COLD WAR CALCULUS: North Korea’s move was more than a mere “olive branch” based on good will for recent failed talks related to family reunions and other related efforts, as many have speculated. Instead, it is part of Pyongyang’s ongoing Cold War calculus, which somewhat resembles a multi-dimensional chessboard in which the country’s top minds game scenarios on how to maximize the chance of power perpetuation. In its Cold War calculus, Pyongyang has concluded that a perceived good will gesture at this point would maximize future economic and non-economic benefits in various forms, including bilateral and multilateral talks with members of the international community.
     
    2. EMPATHY EFFORT FROM THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY: North Korea has repatriated six South Korean nationals to be perceived in a better light from the purview of the international community, both at the leadership level as well as the everyday person. The DPRK understands that such perception is one important piece among many complex moving pieces to garner possible support through efforts meant to garner empathy from those outside its traditional allies (namely, Beijing) in a form of international security hedge play.
     
    3. PROVOCATION PRECURSOR: One pattern from Pyongyang is that a perceived good will gesture can at times be followed by a direct or indirect act of provocation. This is somewhat akin to a finance play involving a perfect hedge that involves taking a risk position for potential gain that is completely (perfectly) hedged by another play to mitigate such related risk. If Pyongyang believes in that such international security hedge can work in reality, then it may actually incentivize North Korea to take even more risk now or in the future.
     
    For a related article by CNN.com by Tim Hume, in which Jasper Kim is quoted, CLICK HERE.

     
     
     
     
     

    RODMAN RULES: 5 WAYS THE NBA STAR SWAYS NORTH KOREA

    September 12th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    Former NBA superstar Dennis Rodman has become a cult of diplomatic personality. In the past few months, the colorful “bad boy” (a term from his days as a player on the Detroit Pistons) has turned into a new post-NBA career track – as the world’s basketball diplomat-in-chief – through two high profile trips to North Korea.
     
    Here are 5 ways Dennis Rodman–the former NBA superstar–holds significant sway with North Korea and its unpredictable “X-factor” leader, Kim Jong-Un:
     
    1. RODMAN KNOWS MORE ABOUT NORTH KOREAN LEADER KIM JONG-UN THAN JUST ABOUT ANYBODY IN THE WORLD: No single person has had such a unique “backstage pass” into the mind and thinking of Kim Jong-Un through his two visits to North Korea. Kim Jong-Un granted Rodman one of the most scarce seats in the world – a seat next to the young DPRK leader – which culminated into a seemingly win-win relationship. Rodman wants recognition and fame, which access to the highest levels of North Korea’s leadership can provide. Kim Jong-Un wants an apolitical trustworthy global iconic figure that can portray a more flattering and perhaps more nuanced image of him—especially since he represents one of the world’s most reclusive and unknown leaders in the world—despite having one of the world’s largest militaries and a potentially devastating nuclear arsenal. 
     
    2. RODMAN AND KIM JONG-UN HAVE SIGNIFICANT SHARED INTERESTS: At first blush, Rodman and Kim may seems universes apart. But underneath the superficialities, the two have significant shared interests. Rodman wants to be known as “the person who brought global basketball to North Korea.” Kim wants to be known as “a leader that is not as brutish as the world may portray him to be.”  
     
    3. SUCH SHARED INTERESTS CAN LEAD TO “BASKETBALL DIPLOMACY”: How can the two shared interests be converted into an actionable outcome? One is through basketball diplomacy—a form of cultural diplomacy leveraging soft power (defined as “getting others to want what you want” by Harvard professor, Joseph Nye).
     
    4. BASKETBALL DIPLOMACY CAN LEAD TO REAL DIPLOMACY: Many have discounted the potential for basketball diplomacy leading to real diplomacy. One such argument is that North Korea is in effect “using” Rodman for its purposes. We disagree. The argument can be made that the alternatives—6-party talks, bilateral diplomacy, sanctions, etc.—have led to little or zero substantive results. So why not give it a try? Basketball diplomacy, as Rodman is envisioning it, is not a “state sponsored” event—not yet anyway. Surprisingly for many, the private sector and private citizens can also play a potentially important role in gaining trust between North Korea and the international community. Diplomats don’t have a monopoly on good faith diplomatic efforts, nor should they, in our view.
     
    5. RODMAN’S CALL OUT TO OBAMA MAY BE A NEEDED “WAKE UP CALL”: Rodman’s statements upon his return to Beijing from Pyongyang referencing President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in less than flattering terms were admittedly not ideal. But given the lack of progress in U.S.-DPRK relations, such blunt analysis from a well-known figure such as Dennis Rodman may be the unlikely informal diplomatic figure that “sets the ball in motion.” Even if his efforts come to no resolution, how much different is this than with what has transpired thus far with the so-called experts?
     
     
     
     

    The Kaesong Negotiations: Why the two Koreas succeeded in getting to yes (and its implications)

    August 15th, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    This blog post is based on an earlier version of a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) post and video interview that can be viewed here.
     
    After seven rounds of meetings and 133 days, the ongoing Kaesong Industrial Complex negotiations between the two Koreas culminated into a five-point agreement. The agreement’s key provisions included language to not disrupt operations within the complex unilaterally, provide for the guarantee of safety of Kaesong assets and workers, restore customs and telecommunications operations, maintain and promote the complex to attract international investments, and the creation of a joint Kaesong Industrial Complex committee
     
    What led to the bargaining breakthrough? The first six rounds of talks were mainly fruitless efforts of what negotiation analysts refer to as “positional bargaining,” in which each party states and restates its positions on a particular issue. Such positional jockeying can often lead to impasse, and even at times, a strategy of purposeful strategic non-cooperation in a form of “prisoner’s dilemma” (a simulation game in which two parties have a choice to cooperate or betray one another). This seemed to be the case with North Korea, which took the view that elongating and escalating the Kaesong negotiation process would yield a net benefit—the same modus operandi it employs with its ongoing nuclear nonproliferation negotiations.
     
    If North Korea viewed the Kaesong bargaining process as a prisoner’s dilemma, then what does it take to break its bad behavior? In prisoner’s dilemma, players betray rather than cooperate mostly out of fear and distrust, viewing the outcome as a zero-sum game in which player A’s gain must come at the expense of player B. But if fear can be mitigated and trust furthered, a greater likelihood towards cooperation exists.
     
    With such agreement leading to other talks related to inter-Korean relations, the one open question now is just how long the Kaesong agreement will last? If precedent is any indicator, it won’t take too long before discord strikes again.
     
    Contact us here at Asia-Pacific Global Research Group to see how we can help.

     
    Below is Jasper Kim’s video interview with the WSJ today:

     
     
     
     

    Why North Korea is a risk-taker

    May 23rd, 2013  by  Asia-Pacific Global Research Group - Jasper Kim

    The analysis below is an excerpt based on the original piece, North Korea’s Risk-taking Explained (by Jasper Kim, Wall Street Journal, Korea Realtime, May 22, 2013), which can be read in full HERE.
     

    Most commentators who track the country say it would never aim to initiate a war with South Korea and its allies because that would inevitably lead to the end of the Kim Jong Un regime. Self-preservation is something the Pyongyang leadership has been very successful at over the last six decades.
     

    So what explains the North’s apparent affinity for risk in routinely confronting the South, mostly verbally but occasionally with deadly force?
     

    Mathematical modeling helps explain the counter-intuitive marriage of risk-taking and rationality at the heart of decision making in North Korea.
     

    Consider you have one of the two choices:
    A: Receive $80 guaranteed; or
    B: Receive a 90% chance to receive $100
     

    Which option should a rational decision maker chose? Studies show that most people would decide to take option A, the sure thing. The thinking is that it is generally better to receive a guaranteed return even if it means receiving less.
     

    But the rational choice is actually option B. Getting to the answer requires what’s called a standard expected value calculation. The expected value of option A is $80 (100% x $80 = $80). The expected value of option B is $90 (90% x $100 = $90). So, because $90 (option B) is greater than $80 (option A), option B would be the rational choice even though it involves taking a risk. 

     
    In the above example, the expected higher gains in option B — equivalent to regime survival — have incentivized risk-taking by North Korea, especially if it doesn’t believe an option A exists.

     
    * The U.S., South Korea and Japan are defensively postured and risk-averse because the aspiration point is primarily maintaining their current position (in terms of preserving military and economic interests);
     
    * North Korea is offensively postured and risk-seeking because its aspiration point is gaining more than its current position (in terms of actively pursuing economic and non-economic assistance and diplomatic recognition).

     

    Given the current incentive structure from North Korea’s view, the Stalinist state sees only incentives to take further risks. As a result, the DPRK’s provocation cycle will only continue, unless the current incentive scheme is changed.
     

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