The only thing U.S. special envoy on North Korea Stephen Bosworth and Washington's former North Korea point man Christopher Hill have in common "is that they like sundubu jjigae (spicy soft tofu stew)," a diplomat said half in jest after Bosworth visited South Korea on May 8-11.
The different styles of the two negotiators on North Korean nuclear policy are evident. A South Korean government official said, "They differ from each other very conspicuously in every respect, in addition to the outward difference that Hill was in permanent post at the State Department while Bosworth is in a part-time position" concurrently working as dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
According to officials, Bosworth gives priority to listening to what other countries' nuclear envoys say over setting forth his own opinions. During his latest visit to South Korea, he did not present any particular ideas.
By contrast, Hill liked to present his own ideas and aggressively tried to sell them to envoys from other countries. The idea of North Korea's showy blow-up of the cooling tower at the Yongbyon nuclear facility last year was conceived by Hill. He suggested various ideas even when the six-party talks were in a deadlock due to differences over the North's alleged uranium enrichment program. Another South Korean government official said, "Hill's ideas sometimes helped find a breakthrough in a creative way, but many of them turned out to be somewhat reckless and irrational."
The two men are also different in their dealings with journalists. Bosworth mostly shuns the press. Although crowds of journalists were waiting at Incheon International Airport last Friday, he left after saying he would not respond to each and every statement or activity by North Korea.
Bosworth spent a mere eight minutes in a press interview at the Foreign Ministry building that evening and gave no answers to reporters' questions when he visited former president Kim Dae-jung last Saturday. By contrast, Hill enjoyed talking with journalists to the point that he talked at least 30 minutes whenever a microphone was put in front of his mouth. He went so far as to try to induce reporters to keep hurling questions by asking them, "Don't you have any more questions?" despite his staff's attempt to end a press conference. Hill was sometimes criticized as being addicted to the limelight.
Bosworth talks cool-headedly, even bluntly, and in a matter-of-fact way that leaves little room for diplomatic rhetoric. But the impatient Hill cracked many jokes and favored metaphorical expressions and grand gestures. A South Korean official said, "When we had dinner together, I found Bosworth a scholar but Hill a negotiator."
Hill, a big baseball fan, liked to compare each phase of the six-party talks to a baseball game.
A diplomat said, "During his latest visit here, when Bosworth was asked how to prevent the North from conducting another nuclear test, he said, 'There aren't many things we can do.' Hill would never have said that."