The recent 2018 North Korea–United States summit in Singapore where United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met to discuss the denuclearization of North Korea’s nuclear program, that caused a stir within the global community due to the threat of North Korea’s nuclear program.
It is important to acknowledge America’s global security and relationship concerns with North Korea, but one must not overlook the impact it has on the nation’s Korean population, even within the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
The summit presents the current generation with the opportunity to analyze the complexity of intercultural relations in regards to native Koreans’ thoughts on denuclearization and the potential reunion of the Korean peninsula.
Although thousands of miles away from the Korean peninsula, Hawai‘i had its own ballistic experience during the false missile alert on Jan. 13. While it was a mistake, it proved the threat of nuclear warfare is real.
Seyoung Yim, a UH Mānoa senior and South Korea native, recalls the fear she experienced that day.
“I still vividly remember the day that I received the ballistic missile alert; the feeling of dread and extreme fear is definitely something I would never forget. Reminiscing about that shocking day, I was quite happy that the U.S. and North Korea have finally had a chance to make an agreement,” Yim said.
Yim’s thoughts align with those 71 percent of Americans, who support direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea regarding the latter’s nuclear program, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April 25 to May 1.
“Many people in the world, including myself, have been worried about the North Korean nuclear threat and the tension between the countries, which might lead to an armed conflict. The fact that this summit has taken place is undeniably a huge step and an achievement,” Yim said.
Yim’s views also align with 49 percent of Americans who do not believe that North Korea takes the concerns about its nuclear program seriously, according to the aforementioned survey. She hopes the second summit will take place for further negotiations.
Reuniting the Korean Peninsula
While the U.S.–North Korea Summit established the foundations for possible denuclearization, others see this event as an opportunity to bring back peace and reunite the Korean peninsula.
UH Mānoa graduate assistant, lecturer and South Korea native HwanHee Kim is one of those people. She feels optimistic and hopeful about this historic moment, knowing the history of the two Koreas.
“We just took the first step. Now it is time to be more patient and hope for some good results that will provide solace for the thousands of people who have suffered immeasurable losses as victims of Korea’s division,” Kim said.
Many know Korea as two separate countries, divided into the North and South. This division is the result of the Japanese Occupation and the Korean War, which occured around the same time as the Vietnam War in the 1950s.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs factsheet on U.S. Relations with North Korea,” after Japan ended its 35-year colonial period in Korea following its defeat in World War 2, the peninsula was divided at the 38th parallel, also known as the Demilitarized Zone, due to Soviet Union influence in the North and U.S. influence in the South. Since a peace treaty was never signed, the Korean War is still technically going on to this day.
Kim’s interpretation of the summit echoes the history of pain that many generations of Koreans felt as a result of the peninsula’s separation.
Yim, however, does not believe the meetings will benefit the two Koreas.
“I don’t think the summit will have a huge impact for the future relationship between South and North Korea. I honestly have no expectation for Korean unification, due to the influence of other countries,” she said.
Rather, she proposes that increased interactions between North and South Korea, as well as reopening the Kaesung Industrial Complex (KIC) will be more helpful in maintaining peaceful relations between the two divided countries.
Although opinions about denuclearization and reunifying the Korean peninsula differ, the summit offers an opportunity to discuss the complexity of solving global security threats and potential impacts it can have on other countries and their citizens through the scope of intercultural relationships.