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Tweet from Trump elicits confusion and offense

Sept 05,2017
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U.S. President Trump’s tweet posted on Sunday led many South Korean media to think he mocked the South Korean government’s pursuit of dialogue with the North. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweet lamenting Seoul’s “appeasement” of Pyongyang has caused worries over possible discord between the two allies on how to deal with North Korea.

It has also caused confusion in the South Korean media, which took a different part of the tweet to be a mockery of their own country.

In a salvo of five Twitter messages Sunday, the businessman-turned-president discussed North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile tests. The third tweet caused the most reaction and confusion: “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

Trump was clearly expressing unhappiness with the way his South Korean counterpart was dealing with Pyongyang, presumably Moon’s proposal to the North that the two Koreas hold military talks to prevent an unexpected clash along the heavily militarized border.

What was unclear from the short tweet was who he was describing with the words “they only understand one thing.”

The New York Times interpreted that Trump meant that Pyongyang only understands one thing, “meaning the threat of military force.”

But prominent newspapers in South Korea including the Chosun Ilbo, Hankook Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo and Money Today, reported that Trump was referring to the South Korean government, which believed that dialogue was the only way to solve the problem.

“‘South Korea only understands one thing,’ says Trump, revealing a discord with Seoul on how to deal with the North,” read a headline in the Hankook Ilbo.

The Chosun Ilbo reported that Trump said “they only understand one thing” in a jab at the “South Korean government.”
The JoongAng Ilbo quoted Trump as saying, “South Korea only understands one thing.”

“Trump was talking about North Korea, not Moon Jae-in,” said Darren Yakey, an assistant professor of English at Gachon University in Gyeonggi. “He said ‘they’ meaning the North Korean regime.”

“The South Korean media has it wrong,” he continued, “although interpreting Trump's tweets is an art form in and of itself.”

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]