Kim Jong-il death sparks hopes of reunification for Korean-Americans
Korean-Americans say North Korea is in an uncertain position after the death of leader Kim Jong-il, but they hope that the event could ultimately lead to the reunification of North and South.
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“They have lived in poverty so long that they have no fear of being killed by leaving to seek a better life,” he says. “We here in the US are taking this moment to prepare for the arrival of lots of émigrés.”Skip to next paragraph
When told of a YouTube video that shows a North Korean news anchor breaking down at the news of Kim’s death – as well as extended footage of North Koreans sobbing and dropping to their knees all over Pyongyang – pharmacist Casey Choi says, “I don’t really believe they are upset like that over there. This was a terribly repressive regime which took care of a tiny percentage and let the rest rot,” she says.
Regardless of Kim's shortcomings, demonizing him will not help improve Korean relations, says Seoul-born Christine Ahn, executive director for the Korea Policy Institute, a volunteer group to promote Korean-American interests, based in Los Angeles.
Though the North is widely seen as being a highly bellicose country guided by generals and military advisers, “We are hopeful that we can promote a more nuanced and complex understanding of the situation,” she says.
She notes that her social networks have been active the past two days with discussions about how to advance a discussion about reconciliation and reunification.
While the dream of a single nation endures inside the Korean-American community, RadioKorea staffer Michael Kim points out that, even if reunification were to happen, the prospect of linking the two nations would be daunting. He points to Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“I have a friend in Leipzig” in the former East Germany, he says, “who talks about how much it hurt both East and West Germany, and how the country is still recovering.”
Nobody should expect that the tiny North Korean economy, which has a gross domestic product of some $40 billion, could mesh easily with the South Korean economy, which is valued at roughly $1 trillion.
Perhaps the uncertainty is best summed by Tae Oh, a first generation Korean-American in his 50s. Working at a Korean bookstore, he shakes his head, saying, “Nobody knows what’s going to happen. Maybe war, maybe peace, maybe it will all stay the same.”
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