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
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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.”


Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

Updated 17 February 2019
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Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

  • President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval
  • Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners

ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Saturday he had not yet determined whether a border wall with Mexico was a military necessity or how much Pentagon money would be used.
President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval.
A US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Shanahan was likely to approve the $3.6 billion being redirected from the military construction budget.
By declaring a national emergency, Trump can use certain Department of Defense funding to build the wall.
According to the law, the defense secretary has to decide whether the wall is militarily necessary before money from the military construction budget can be used.
“We always anticipated that this would create a lot of attention and since moneys potentially could be redirected, you can imagine the concern this generates,” Shanahan told reporters traveling back with him from his trip to Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe.
“Very deliberately, we have not made any decisions, we have identified the steps we would take to make those decisions,” Shanahan said.
He added that military planners had done the initial analysis and he would start reviewing it on Sunday.
Officials have said that the administration had found nearly $7 billion to reallocate to the wall, including about $3.6 billion from the military construction budget and $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction fund.
The US defense official said Shanahan would meet with the service secretaries in the coming days to pick which specific projects the money should come from.
Shanahan said that planners had identified the different sources of money that could be used, but he had not decided specifically what projects it would impact and ultimately it was his decision.
“I am not required to do anything,” he said.
Shanahan said he did not expect to take money away from projects like military housing.
Poor standards of military housing were highlighted by recent Reuters reporting, which described rampant mold and pest infestations, childhood lead poisoning, and service families often powerless to challenge private landlords in business with their military employers.
“Military housing, what’s been interesting- I’ve received a number of letters, I’ve had lots of feedback, do not jeopardize projects that are underway,” Shanahan said.
“As we step our way through the process, we’ll use good judgment,” Shanahan said.
The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall that Trump insists is necessary to curtail illegal immigration.
Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners.
“We are following the law, using the rules and we’re not bending the rules,” Shanahan said.