The recent scene between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un conjured up images of the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall for Flushing-based lawmaker Ron Kim.
“Just like for many Korean Americans and all Americans, it was a very emotional image to witness,” the assemblyman told QNS in an interview on May 1. “To see, after all these years, the North Korean leader [who represents] the most isolated group of people in the world with the South Korean leader … It was very emotional and it was very reminiscent to what happened at the Berlin Wall when it came down.”
On April 27, the leaders formally pledged to end the war between the two countries and rid the peninsula they share of nuclear weapons at a historic summit. Jong Un became the first North Korean leader to cross into South Korean territory since 1953, signaling the potential end of decades of tension between the two countries.
For Assemblyman Kim, the meeting was a positive sign, signaling a move towards “people-to-people diplomacy” between the two countries.
Every Korean citizen wants to see steps taken towards reunification, the assemblyman continued, but they are divided on the approach. This split is largely through generational lines.
“For many of us, we have families who have been divided,” the Korean American leader said. “There is a consensus that unification had to happen one way or another.”
Kim visited North Korea on a humanitarian trip years ago, where he found a country “stuck in the 1950s.” Citizens he spoke with there could not understand the concept of emigration, he noted, and many were undernourished.
The younger generations, who are “much more open minded,” want to “see North Korea come into the 21st century.” The older generations are seeing red flags, Kim said, and “feeling emotional but thinking skeptically.”
“They’ve seen this play out before,” he said. “They want to make sure there’s no influence of [North Korean] ideology among south Koreans.”
Kim, who was the first Korean American to be elected to New York state Legislature, also noted that peace talks open up the chance for many of the borough’s families to communicate with their relatives in North Korea for the first time in decades.
President Trump is slated to meet with Jong Un in the coming weeks. Kim hopes the United States will come to “some tangible agreement” with the North Korean leader. He would also like to see the opening of a new embassy.
“I fear with this president, who is often very impulsive — I don’t want there to be any miscommunications,” he said.
Three Americans are currently being held prisoner in North Korean, Kim noted. He hopes talks will include efforts on the president’s part to see them freed as “an act of good faith.”