What did we get for $20 million for hosting the Trump-Kim Summit?

By June 13, 2018Current

TL;DR – A spark of hope for peace.

Even now after the successful conclusion of the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, there are still Singaporeans who are upset that Singapore spent $20 million hosting the summit. At the end of the day, what did we get for all that money?

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For a start, a lot more people around the world now know more about Singapore. Amid the buzz about the summit, many Americans wondered where exactly is the Southeast Asian city-state is located. 

The Google search queries for the term ‘where is Singapore’ escalated in the wake of the much-anticipated meeting. The interest spiked late on June 10 before going down. Again, on June 11- 12 as Trump landed in Singapore, Americans flocked to their internet devices to search for the tiny country. And that’s just in USA.

Search trend for ‘Where is Singapore’ for last seven days. Source: Google Trends

And it’s not just the google searches.

Singapore kept appearing on television worldwide. Millions watched as Trump and Kim met in Singapore. From Los Angeles:

People watch on a screen as North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un meets with US President Donald Trump in Singapore, during a US-North Korea summit watch party in Koreatown, Los Angeles, on Jun 11, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Robyn Beck)

To screens in Times Square New York:

People in Times Square walk past TV screens showing the meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. (Photo: AFP)

And, of course, Seoul:

People watch live footage of the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore at a railway station in Seoul on Jun 12, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Jung Yeon-je)

All these are free advertisements for Singapore as a great destination for high level meetings and conventions. What’s the value of these advertisements?

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Here’s how much it costs on average to get a broadcast spot on TV to screen a commercial in US:

Average cost of a 30-second TV commercial in selected formats in the United States in July 2016 (in thousand U.S. dollars). via

Over the days leading up to the summit as well as during the summit, the top 10 US news networks kept talking about the summit. Every time the news networks talked about the summit, they would have mentioned Singapore.

Let’s say that the summit got mentioned on those news networks twice an hour over the three days running up to the summit, that’ll be 144 times per news network that Singapore was mentioned. The average cost of a broadcast spot on US television based is about USD22,700.

So per news network, the advertising cost of all those mentions is about USD3.3 million. Multiply that by 10 US news networks, that’s about USD33 million worth of advertising. And that’s only in US.

Then there’s South Korea, Japan, China. Put together, the amount of advertising for Singapore would be well worth more than the $20 million that we spent hosting the summit.

By the way an Mumbrella article has estimated that the earned media for Singapore from the Trump-Kim Summit is to the tune of some 150 million. A ST article reported that analyst Meltwater’s estimate was some 700 million of earned media.

Hope for peace

But… you know what? Let’s not be so pragmatic. Let’s be a more idealistic. The most valuable things in life often can’t be measured in dollars and cents, right?

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For a start, the summit has moved us a little bit back from a nuclear apocalypse. Just six months ago, Trump was calling Kim “rocket man” and was full of “fire and fury” rhetoric. North Korea was testing nuclear warheads. At that time, it seemed like we were on the brink of nuclear war. If, at that time, you suggested that the Trump and Kim would be shaking hands, smiling, talking like old chums six months later, you would probably be called mad. But, move away from nuclear war we did.

Thanks to the summit.

The declaration signed by Trump and Kim represents a departure from the fiery rhetoric that has traditionally characterised relations between Washington and Pyongyang. It also reflects Kim’s desire to focus on modernisation and economic progress – now possibly with American assistance. (Interesting Forbes article on the coverage of Kim’s visit here.)

Of course, the summit is but the beginning.

There is still no direct commitment to formalise those sentiments with a peace treaty to replace the armistice signed at the end of the Korean war in 1953. The declaration didn’t state in clear and certain terms that North Korea dismantle their nuclear arsenal completely, verifiably and irreversibly.

But considering that no President of the US had met any previous leaders of North Korea, and the deep-seated suspicion and animosity, it would have been a miracle if one meeting was enough to completely denuclearise North Korea and result in a peace treaty between the two Koreas.

What the summit represents is a step away from war and toward peace.

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It’s a spark of hope. To be guarded and slowly fanned into a bright burning beacon. There’s certainly hard work to be done. But it started here, in Singapore. That’s what we got for $20 million.

Securing Singapore’s relevance in the world

Some would say that another country could have hosted the summit. It needn’t have been us. Sure. Which country?

US and North Korea reached out and asked us to host the summit. We didn’t ask for it. Sure. We could have said no. Then which country?

Given the various restrictions (e.g. Kim can’t fly that far, perceived neutrality, security…), which other country would US and North Korea have asked?

And imagine if we refused, and word got out that we refused. The same people who are criticising us for spending the money to host the summit would probably be criticising for not having the courage to host the summit.

The $20 million is our little contribution to the world. It’s a small price to pay for punching above our weight, making an impact on the global stage where US and China are major players. It helps Singapore secure our political and economic relevance to the world. And if we lose our political and economic relevance to the world, no need to talk about spending money to take care of the low income families in Singapore, where would we get money for anything at all?

So, on balance, I’d say that the $20 million was well-spent, don’t you think?


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Joey Wee

Author Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!

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