Who’s controlling who?


The ‘carrot and stick’ approach is an idiom that refers to a policy of offering a combination of rewards and punishment to induce behavior. It is named in reference to a cart driver dangling a carrot (reward) in front of a donkey and holding a stick (punishment) behind it.

The ‘carrot and stick’ approach is a concept often utilized in international relations, such as in the case of the U.S. dealing with North Korea. I decided to draw this cartoon to illustrate the paradoxical outcome of the ‘carrot and stick’ approach. In the cartoon, North Korea is depicted as the donkey, while the U.S. is depicted as ‘Uncle Sam’. The carrots in the background refer to the incentives that North Korea have received.

The expected outcome of the ‘carrot and stick’ approach is that control is usually given to whoever is distributing the carrots (incentives). And since, the U.S. is one of the cart drivers that distributes these carrots, it is expected that the donkey (North Korea) listens to the cart driver, by directing the cart to wherever the cart driver wills it to go.

However, instead of the U.S. being able to draw in and manage Pyongyang with incentives (e.g. financial / humanitarian aid), the end result is that Pyongyang gets more audaciously bold and belligerent, utilizing whatever incentives (carrots) it has received to build up its nuclear arsenals / missiles. The unpredictable actions of North Korea is also creating much confusion and uncertainty to the U.S. (and the rest of the world), as depicted by the ‘drink of confusion’ that it is feeding to Uncle Sam (the U.S.) in the picture. The roles appear to have changed, and the notion that the U.S. being in full control no longer seems valid. In any case, North Korea is actually the one in control, playing all the cards to her favor.


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Currently living and pursuing my undergraduate studies in South Korea.

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