Why the Trump-Kim summit brought tears to a South Korean’s eyes

South Korean Choi Nam Sook, left, was overcome by emotion as she watched the historic meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Her mother lost all her family in North Korea during the Korean War in 1950-1953. Beside her is her husband Noh Chong Hyun, chairman of the Korean Association in Singapore. (Arab News photo)
Updated 12 June 2018
0

Why the Trump-Kim summit brought tears to a South Korean’s eyes

  • Choi Nam Sook longs for South Korea to be reunified with the North again — if not in her generation, then in her children’s.
  • The 160-mile frontier between the two Koreas — better known as the demilitarized zone (DMZ) — continues to be one of the most volatile borders in the world today.

SINGAPORE: For South Korean Choi Nam Sook, the historic handshake between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday was not only symbolic, it was deeply personal.

For as long as she has lived, the Korean Peninsula has been divided. Her 87-year-old mother, a North Korean, spent years looking for surviving relatives there to no avail.

“This is kind of a big step forward,” Choi, 53, said of the meeting between Trump and Kim.

“I was thinking of my mother … she probably feels more excited than anyone else,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Choi’s mother was a nurse with the national hospital of Pyongyang when the Korean War broke out in 1950. She was 19 when she was sent to South Korea because of the war.

“From that moment, she could never go back home again. She lost her whole family,” she said, choking with emotion.

The two Koreas split in 1945 when Japan lost World War Two. The Japanese, who had colonized the peninsula for 35 years, had to withdraw.

“The Russians (then the Soviet Union) moved in from the northern side to take over what we call North Korea today. The Americans moved into the southern side in what is called South Korea today,” explained Shawn Ho, an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

The initial plan was for the US and Russia to be a stabilizing force, to help in post-war reconstruction and maintain peace and stability until the Koreans could reunify. “But things didn’t work out that way,” said Ho, who specializes in Korean Peninsula affairs.

North and South Korea established their own governments in 1948, but the Korean War broke out two years later, sealing the division further.

Even though an armistice agreement in 1953 ended the fighting, the two sides are still technically at war as no peace treaty was signed.

As a result, the 160-mile frontier between the two Koreas — better known as the demilitarized zone (DMZ) — continues to be one of the most volatile borders in the world today.

But hopes of peace were revived on Tuesday after Trump and Kim inked a denuclearization agreement in Singapore.

South Korean president Moon Jae In welcomed the news and praised Kim‘s decision to hold the summit with Trump, saying: “Leaving the dark days of war and conflict behind, we will write a new chapter of peace and cooperation. We will be there together with North Korea along the way.”

Ho credits Moon for making the summit possible. “Without South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s mediation between the two parties, I don’t even think we will have come to this stage,” he said.

“He put everything he had into this process — his energy, effort, commitment, political capital; basically his whole life.”

Choi remains hopeful for peace and reconciliation — perhaps even reunification — of the two Koreas. “My next generation, maybe they can achieve one country, one Korea again,” she told Arab News.

“It is difficult, we know it is difficult. But times are changing … it is time to start to reconcile.”


From ‘minga’ to ‘Maga’ — how the UN heard two world views

US President Donald Trump during a working luncheon hosted by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, front, at the United Nations in New York Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 26 September 2018
0

From ‘minga’ to ‘Maga’ — how the UN heard two world views

  • Trump had his own ideas for solving those very same problems, but they owed little to the minga philosophy

NEW YORK: The president of the United Nations General Assembly, Maria Espinosa, introduced the concept of “minga” to the packed audience at the organization’s HQ on East 44th Street in New York; but an hour later President Donald Trump had reasserted his own view of the world, under the “Maga” banner.
Opening the first day of the UN general debate — the centerpiece of the organization’s annual get together — Espinosa, from Ecuador, explained that minga was a principle by which the people of the Andes lived their lives. Its main tenet was the principle of living and working together in harmony for the betterment of all — an idea sure to win approval at the UN.
With minga the world could solve the big issues it faces, from gender inequality through the environment down to peace and security.
Trump had his own ideas for solving those very same problems, but they owed little to the minga philosophy. Instead, he saw the world through the prism of “strong independent nations” which together would advance the state of mankind.
And, as he made clear, the US was the leader of this band of nation, so his oft-declared amibition of “making America great again” (Maga) would bring the rest of the world along with it to greatness.
“Inside everyone listening here today is the heart of a patriot, filled with the passion that inspired reform and revolutions, economic good, technological progress and works of art. Sovereign independent nations are the only vehicles where freedom, democracy and peace have been enhanced. So we have to protect them,” the president explained.
Not everyone in the audience agreed with Trump’s unilateral view of the world, nor with America’s perceived role in it.
Before he had taken the podium — in presidential dark grey suit, white shirt and long red tie — the two previous speakers had stressed the traditional UN values of collectivism and multilateralism, and received warm applause from the delegates for doing so.
Two South American leaders, President Michel Timer of Brazil and President Lenin Moreno of Ecuador, both talked about the challenges of multilateralism, and obliquely criticized the US over its long-running embargo of Cuba, as well as what they said was the role of American banks in dominating their economies, to the detriment of their people.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said that multilateralism was “under fire exactly when we need it the most, and, in contrast to Trump’s later comments about trade deficits, explained that what the world was really suffering from was a “trust deficit”, which could sink the international order in a bloody quagmire similar to the First World War.
President Trump made light of such dire warnings. In fact, he was adamant that the future was good, with a booming US economy, strong stock markets, full employment, tax reform and increased see spending on the US military.
“In the two years of my presidency, we have seen more progress that almost any other administration in the history of this country,” he said. The delegates murmured in response.