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Donald Trump's Body Language When Meeting Kim Jong Un

Updated on July 30, 2018
revmjm profile image

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She posts many articles online that are really Bible lessons.

Many people were watching and saw the historic handshake between United States President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. It was the first time a sitting president had met the North Korean leader.

Body experts and others pointed out Trump stood out because he is bigger, eight inches taller and 37 years older than Kim. These characteristics gave him advantages over the shorter and much younger leader.

Trump appeared to more confident, at ease and in control than Kim. He took the lead in most instances. Cultural differences might have been the reason Kim laid back and allowed some of that to happen.

Arrival Time

Kim made it a point to arrive first. It is a custom in his culture for the younger one to arrive at a meeting first to show respect to the older one.

Since Kim is only 34 years old, he is the younger one and arrived at the meeting place seven minutes earlier than Trump who is 71 years old.

Setting the Tone

The pair walked slowly towards each other for a photo session and a long handshake in front of six North Korean and six U.S. flags mixed together behind them. It was a beautiful sight and a symbolic one at that.

According to body language experts, the person who extends the hand first for a handshake is usually the one who is in control. Trump extended his hand to Kim before Kim extended his.

Lillian Glass, a California-based communication and psychology expert indicated that Trump set the tone by approaching Kim with an extended arm that revealed a receptive and genuine gesture.

The Handshakes

There were numerous handshakes during the summit, and Trump was in control of every one of them. One reason is that in Korean culture, a young person does not initiate a handshake to an older person.

The first handshake lasted 13 seconds with a pat on Kim’s arm. Trump initiated at least three handshakes with obvious tight grips before they went into the meeting.


Kim Hyung-hee, director of the Korea Body Language Lab, explained that in Korean culture, a young person does not touch the older person's body just to be doing so. It was quite noticeable that Kim followed his country's customs and did not initiate much physical contact as a way to be polite to the older leader. However, Kim did reject any of the touches. Instead, he responded to them in a kind manner.

In all, Trump was extremely touchy-feely. He was seen doing the following things in most of the photos

  • Trump extended his hand first for the initial handshake.
  • Trump put his hand on Kim’s shoulder.
  • Trump touched Kim's elbow.
  • Trump patted Kim on the biceps of his right arm.
  • The president patted Kim on the back.
  • Trump touched Kim six times when they first met.
  • Trump pulled Kim closer to him as they shook hands.

Kim seemed to have caught onto the touching as well. There is a picture of Kim's hand on Trump's back as they walked into the meeting.

Kim has hand on Trump's back.
Kim has hand on Trump's back.

The Lead

Viewers couldn't help but notice that Trump took the lead and initiated most of the interactions while acting as if he was the host. He used hand gestures to get Kim to turn, face the camera and go into the designated room. How Kim's body language showed that he didn't mind.

Body experts noticed that Trump took the lead in the following ways.

  • Trump pointed to the cameras before he and Kim turned for their first photo.
  • Trump directed Kim to exit the red carpet and move to the meeting room that included only translators.

Donald Trump taking the lead most of the time.
Donald Trump taking the lead most of the time.

Seating at the Table

There is a lot to say about Trump sitting at the table while the others are standing. Usually, the person sitting has less power than the ones standing, but in this case, Trump is in the king's position, with his subjects standing around him.

Trump indicate that he is comfortable and confident with his arms crossed and his hands hidden.


Readers of this article probably noticed that the focus was on the body language of the two world leaders. There was no mention of what was said in the meeting between the leaders. Additionally, there was nothing said about the characteristics or background of the two men.

Feel free to post comments, if you like. However, if comments are made, it would be fair to make them about the topic of the article which was clearly pointed out. Post appropriate comments that will add value to the topic about body language. Any unfair comments will be deleted.


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    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      4 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Tim, I discovered something interesting while researching for this article. The younger one in Kim's culture should respect the older one by arriving early for a meeting and by letting the older one extend the hand first for handshakes. I love learning new things about body language.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      4 months ago from U.S.A.

      I enjoyed reading this. Trump and the N. Korea leader are skillful politicians. I saw this morning how Trump was praising the younger leader. I suppose they really want to accomplish something for both nations' well-being.

      In any case, the hand shake was historic. Perhaps, their words and later action will match the positive body language from both men.



    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      4 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Betty A F, I like to observe body language. Sometimes body language speaks louder than verbal communication.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Annkf profile image

      Betty A F 

      4 months ago from Florida

      It's interesting how much our mannerisms reveal about us in different situations. I enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing it.


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