Many Korean Americans will be keeping a close eye on the Trump-Kim summit. That’s especially the case for those who still have strong ties to the Korean Peninsula.
CGTN’s May Lee visited Los Angeles’ Koreatown community, where many are hoping this meeting will lead to change.
Koreatown in Los Angeles is the epicenter of the largest concentration of ethnic Koreans outside the peninsula. Roughly 300,000 Korean-Americans call greater LA their home. But for many, their homeland is still Korea.
That’s all the more reason why the upcoming summit between DPRK leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump is captivating the Korean-American community here.
“For many Koreans and I think even the non-Koreans that are around me, they’re all equally excited and hopeful, but at the same time because of the past there is this guarded, tempered hope or celebration just because you just don’t know,” said Hypein Im, President of Faith and Community Empowerment.
The on again, off again summit has certainly heightened that cautious approach, but for Kee Park, the possibility of lasting peace on the peninsula is stunning. “Six months ago if you had told me, they would be meeting in Singapore, Trump and Kim, that would have been laughed at. And look where we are now,” said Park.
Park, who is a surgeon, had seen firsthand what an isolated DPRK has done to its people. He’s been going on medical humanitarian missions to Pyongyang for the past 10 years. “The North Korean people inherently are distrustful, especially if you’re coming from the United States. Some people come, they make promises, they don’t come back. So we were very careful that we made promises we could keep and we’ve gone in every time, every year, we’ve never missed a year,” he explained.
Jason Ahn also hopes the summit will lead to a breakthrough, especially on the issue of divided families. More than 100-thousand Korean Americans have family members in the DPRK they haven’t seen in more than six decades.
“You can imagine the folks who remember their mother, their brother, their child whom they left in North Korea are in their 70s, 80s, 90s, if they’re still alive and so time is running out. This should have been done a long time ago, but this is an amazing opportunity for us,” said Ahn. Ahn, who is the Board Chair of Divided Families USA, documented this issue in his film, “Divided Families”.
Even with the many disappointments in the past, Koreans in LA, including myself, who still have loved ones on the Korean Peninsula, are cautiously optimistic and hope that permanent peace is somewhere in the not so distant future.