North Korean General Nam Il was "short in stature...and gave the impression of considerable nervous energy."
General Hsieh Fang, the ranking Chinese delegate, gave "the impression of Shakespeare's 'Yond Cassius...a lean and hungry look'...a bitterly sharp mind."
North Korean General Lee Sang Cho, described by Joy in less glowing terms, "was an accomplished liar...short and chunky, often dirty and slovenly."
The UN team marveled at the degree to which the North Koreans attempted to appear stern. While Hsieh Fang dressed like a trench soldier, the North Koreans
wore fanciful uniforms. They never smiled.
General Lee, eager to demonstrate "iron self-control," let flies crawl around his face before the amused Americans. When a lower-ranking South Korean
colonel fell out of his chair, the North Koreans didn't crack a smile as the Chinese burst out laughing.
Admiral Joy noticed other peculiarities; the North Koreans had shortened the legs of his chair, making Nam Il appear taller. When a United Nations flag was
placed on the conference table, a bigger North Korean flag appeared alongside it after a recess.
Every comment in the talks was translated to Chinese, Korean, and English. In the interim, Nam Il smoked constantly and broke pencils--"like a cat on a hot
tin roof," as Joy explained. Hsieh Fang, who the admiral described in overtly racial terms, "watched proceedings broodingly...His saturnine yellow face was a
set mask, revealing nothing, expressing nothing."
The first step towards ending active fighting was to decide an agenda for the talks. That effort--producing disagreement over the definition of
"agenda"--took 10 meetings. Agreed steps for a cease-fire came out as follows:
-- Establish a demarcation line and demilitarized zone
-- Create specific conditions for an armistice and name neutral countries to
-- Reach an agreement on exchanging prisoners of war
-- Offer post-armistice "recommendations" to both sides
The first issue, establishing a cease-fire line, was messy from the beginning. North Korean and Chinese delegates insisted on the 38th parallel--a
stipulation that would have forced UN troops to withdraw from fortified lines near today's demilitarized zone and return hundreds of square miles to North
On the orders of General Matthew B. Ridgway--then the ranking U.S. commander in the Pacific--Joy's delegation refused to accept any demarcation zone south of
the actual line of battle. The 38th parallel, they contended, was militarily indefensible for stopping future attacks. Nam Il ridiculed these arguments--"do
you not feel ridiculous?"--noting that America's air and naval power more than compensated for such disadvantages.
Increasingly vitriolic debates ensued over the hot days of August. On the 14th of that month, Nam Il called the UN position "arrogant and absurd" 19 times in a little over an hour and then--as Joy recorded in his journal--"actually sneered at us."