Donald Trump was set to make a grand statement to South Korea’s National Assembly on Wednesday morning, both in order to show his dedication to allies and to send a stern warning to North Korea over their continued nuclear ambitions. In the shared excerpts made before the speech, the message to Kim Jong-un and the DPRK was, “Do not underestimate us. AND DO NOT TRY US.” This did come during Trump’s speech, but only after he mentioned his golf course in Bedminster and delivered what many are a calling a book report on the history of South Korea and its divide with North Korea.
The speech, which was highly scripted with only a few off-the-cuff statements tossed in, ran down the laundry list of human rights violations, crimes, threats, and living conditions that we’ve heard about the dictatorship. This includes the cruel prison camps, the starvation of the people, and the cult of personality that surrounds its leadership. None of these were ever in dispute before, but Trump made sure to list them out to the South Koreans as if it were the first time they had heard about them. And that was the scripted portion.
The promotion for his golf course came early on as a way to praise Korea for their skillful players on the golf course, with the president noting that the Women’s U.S. Open was held at his Bedminster golf club:
“In fact — and you know what I’m going to say — the women’s U.S. Open was held this year at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. And it just happened to be won by a great Korean golfer, Park Sung-hyun, and eight of the top players were from Korea, and the top four golfers, one, two, three, four, the top four were from Korea.”
And while it wouldn’t seem like he would do it, Trump did not miss his opportunity to mention his election victory:
While this is far from the worst thing that could’ve happened, it is an oddity for the president to take time out to mention his own business during a speech in front of a foreign legislature. Not to mention, a nation involved in one of the more tense issues his administration has been addressing since taking office in January.
Most of the speech dealt with this, sometimes describing the accused crimes of North Korea in mundane detail to the South Korean National Assembly. While Trump didn’t make it to the DMZ during his visit, reportedly due to weather, his speech spared no details on how it came into existence and what the people of South Korea have accomplished compared to their neighbors and its dictatorship:
“When the Korean War began in 1950, the two Koreas were approximately equal in GDP per capita, but by the 1990s South Korea’s wealth had surpassed North Korea by more than 10 times. And today the South’s economy is over 40 times larger,” Trump said. “You’re doing something right.
“North Korea is a country ruled by a cult. At the center of this military cult is a deranged belief in the ruler’s destiny to rule as a parent protector over a conquered Korean Peninsula,” Trump said. “The more successful South Korea becomes the more successfully you discredit the dark fantasy at the heart of the [North] Korean regime.”
This seemed to go over well to those in attendance, though reports noted that the far right members of the Assembly were more supportive than others in attendance — several did not applaud throughout the speech. There have also been protests against the president in South Korea, but with a mix of supporters thrown in at the same time.
But most of the reactions toward Trump’s speech questioned why the president was delivering a history lesson about South Korea to South Korea:
While most of the reactions were about the speech itself, there were plenty that made sure to comment on the election results from Tuesday night. Trump was already aware given his response to the loss of Ed Gillespie in Virginia, but some seemed thrilled to make sure he got the message:
The media reaction to the speech is still coming in alongside the historic election results out of states like Virginia, but if anything, this speech will likely earn him some praise because he didn’t do anything overtly offensive, he didn’t call anybody by a silly nickname, and he drizzled praise all over his hosts. The North Korean reaction will not be as kind, but when is it?