Suburban Koreans' wish: 'peace and an end to the war'

 
 
Posted6/12/2018 5:00 AM
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  • North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump continue their first meeting at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island Tuesday in Singapore.

    North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump continue their first meeting at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island Tuesday in Singapore. associated press

Many Korean-Americans in the suburbs were glued to their televisions and smartphones Monday night when President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made history meeting face to face in Singapore.

Among them was Kate Shin, a reporter at the Glenview-based Korea Times, who said most Koreans in Chicago and the suburbs are "optimistic about the summit."

In the days leading up to the event, Korean churches hosted services where people gathered to pray for reunification of the divided country where many North Koreans live in poverty under Kim's repressive regime.

At one event Sunday that Shin attended, people who came were "really hoping for unity. They just want peace and an end to the war," Shin said.

Most Korean-Americans in the suburbs originally came from South Korea, but many have family members in North Korea they haven't seen for decades.

At the Korean Cultural Center of Chicago in Wheeling, Kay Kim said she's hopeful but realistic about the summit.

"I don't expect a quick fix," Kim said. "Both sides need to be more considerate. Both sides need to be more patient."

"There are people's lives at stake," said Inhe Choi, executive director of the HANA Center, an advocacy and support organization for Korean-Americans in Prospect Heights and Chicago.

"It's not just about the talks going well but whether the U.S. government will follow through and establish diplomatic relations with Korea," Choi said.

In talking with Hana Center clients, Choi characterizes "the mood as optimistic."

Koreans desperately desire a change from the status quo, Choi explained. An armistice was signed in 1953, but the Korean War has never formally ended.

"One nation was divided by the superpowers of the United States and Soviet Union. ... It's a national tragedy" for Korea, she said.

A priority for the U.S. is persuading North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

If Kim and Trump come to a resolution, it's crucial Republicans and Democrats don't "play politics," Choi said.

"If any kind of agreement is made for real ... Congress must really recognize it and take steps. It's beyond politics," she said.

Jaewon Rho, former editor-in-chief of the Elk Grove Village-based Chicago Korea Daily, also noted that since the Trump White House got involved, "there have been substantial and realistic efforts put in to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.

"We hope that all this hard work will lead to the unification of South and North Koreas, and eventually cooperation and prosperity between the unified Korea and the United States," Rho said.

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