President Trump often gets painted by his detractors as a misogynist, despite the powerful roles women have in his administration. Now another woman in his administration, an unsung hero, is getting noticed for the vital role she played in the most important negotiations so far this century — June 12’s U.S.-North Korea summit.
According to Asia One, only two other people were privy to the initial secret meeting between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore. One was Kim’s interpreter, and the other was 61-year-old Dr. Lee Yun-hyang, the U.S. interpreter aiding Trump in the negotiating process.
The mother of two has served three presidents, has been an official interpreter at three Olympics, and holds a doctorate in translation, according to Time. She is highly educated and an expert at the difficult task of translating and interpreting the inexact nature of diplomatic talks.
Lee earned her education in Seoul, South Korea, Geneva, Switzerland, and Monterey, California. She left South Korea and eventually came to America because she didn’t want to raise her “daughter in a country that discriminates against women so much.”
She joined the U.S. State Department in 2008, beginning a career that has put her at the forefront of world events. Those who know her work have deep praise for her.
“She doesn’t try to be the star of the show; she stays in the background,” said U.S. Institute of Peace expert Frank Aum, who has worked with Lee. “She’s very attuned to getting the interpretation and translation right rather than being more involved than she has to be.”
But interpreting for world leaders in conversations where the fate of nations can be at stake requires intense concentration and the making of many judgment calls. Humor and nuance don’t always translate well and can come across as confusing or insulting to the receiving party.
Aum explained, “People in the U.S. Government don’t do a lot of work trying to find the right talking points to get the right messages to the other side. They assume everything translates 100%. But there’s many times where little jokes or phrases don’t get picked up. [Lee has] been excellent at picking up the nuances and making sure that the U.S. message is portrayed accurately.”