The historic summit in Singapore this week between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has especially resonated in Federal Way, which is home to the state’s largest Korean American community.
Sara Oh, president of the Federal Way Korean American Association, described the photos of the two leaders shaking hands as “surreal.” There is already strong support for unification and peace on the Korean peninsula, she said, and this summit symbolizes another step toward realizing that goal.
The recent meeting between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in set a precedent for the Singapore summit while also generating optimism among many local Korean Americans, she said.
“The general message is hopeful,” Oh said. “It’s something I didn’t think I’d see in my lifetime.”
The summit follows months of tension – and heated words – between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea over the latter nation’s nuclear weapons.
This well-publicized saber-rattling made the Singapore summit all the more shocking for Federal Way resident Woody Ahn, who had witnessed death and atrocities as a child during the violent Korean War.
Although it is unclear how these recent high-profile meetings will ultimately play out, Ahn said the prospect of unification could reduce poverty and starvation in North Korea while also reuniting family members who were separated by a political border nearly seven decades ago.
“Sometimes we just need to compromise and work together,” Ahn said. “This looks like a great start to me.”
The New York Times reports that North Korea plans to suspend military exercises and move to dismantle his country’s nuclear arsenal. In addition, human rights groups are calling on President Trump to bring up North Korea’s history of human rights violations.