History Unfolds as Trump Prepares to Meet Kim Jong-un

June 11, 2018

By Britt Terrell

History will be made Tuesday when President Trump sits down with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, and one of the questions many have asked is why these two leaders have reached this point, while their predecessors never did.

Travis Jeppesen, an author who happens to be one of the few American citizens to have actually lived in North Korea has an answer: "You have two very unlikely leaders - certainly the United States has never had a president like President Trump before," said Jeppesen, author of "See You Again in Pyongyang: A Journey Into Kim Jong-un's North Korea."

"I think we also have to give Kim Jong-un the benefit of the doubt," he said. "He is another kind of leader as well. I mean if you think about it, unlike his father and his grandfather, Kim Jong-un played no role whatsoever in creating the North Korean system. He inherited it."

A week ago, Jeppesen noted, Kim Jong-un fired three top military generals, who had apparently resisted Kim over his willingness to meet with Trump, signaling that the leader may be more open to peace and denuclearization talks than previously anticipated.

Jeppesen visited North Korea for the first time in 2012, just a few months after Kim Jong-un took control over the nation. He describes his acceptance in the country by the North Korean people and their understanding of the difference between the American government and the American people. North Koreans primarily have issues with the U.S. government, but not its citizens.

"I think that they realize that isolation, whether it's imposed on them from outside, via sanctions, or from within by their own regime, is not the way forward in the 21st century. It's certainly not sustainable when their entire world is interconnected."

Despite the obvious benefits of normalized relations between the two countries, Jeppesen is still stunned by how much has happened in recent months to bring the two leaders together. "It's kind of amazing what we've come this far," Jeppesen said. "Just thinking back a year ago, which was the last time I was in Pyongyang, and I was there actually on a day when another missile test went off. So it's kind of shocking in just the period of less than a year really, we've gotten to this point."

So far, though, the markets have not had much reaction to the Singapore summit. The Dow Industrials eked out a gain of fewer than six points on Monday, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both rose less than 0.2%.

"I think that the levels of expectation for the Singapore summit are so low that it would be very hard for the market to be disappointed by anything that comes out of that," said Art Hogan, Chief Market Strategist for B. Riley FBR and Wunderlich Securities.

"I don't think this is the catalyst this week that is going to roll this market over."

For full interview, click here.