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

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.”

Child bride auction in South Sudan goes viral, sparks Facebook anger

Updated 2 min 55 sec ago

Child bride auction in South Sudan goes viral, sparks Facebook anger

JUBA: Five hundred cows, two luxury cars, $10,000, two bikes, a boat and a few cell phones made up the final price in a heated bidding war for a child bride in South Sudan that went viral after the auction was pointed out on Facebook. It is the largest dowry ever paid in the civil war-torn country, the government said.
The highest bidder was a man three times the 17-year-old’s age. At least four other men in Eastern Lakes state competed, said Philips Anyang Ngong, a human rights lawyer who tried to stop the bidding last month. Among the bidders was the state’s deputy governor.
“She has been reduced to a mere commodity,” Ngong told The Associated Press, calling it “the biggest test of child abuse, trafficking and auctioning of a human being.” Everyone involved should be held accountable, he said.
Earlier this month, Nyalong became the man’s ninth wife. Photos posted on Facebook show her sitting beside the groom, wearing a lavish dress and staring despondently at the floor. The AP is using only her first name to protect her identity.
South Sudan has a deeply rooted cultural practice of paying dowries for brides, usually in the form of cows. It also has a long history of child marriage. Even though that practice is now illegal, 40 percent of girls still marry before age 18, according to the United Nations Population Fund. The practice “threatens girls’ lives” and limits prospects for their future, said Dr. Mary Otieno, the agency’s country representative.
The bidding war has caused local and international outrage. It took several days for Facebook to remove the post that first pointed out the auction, and after it was taken down other posts “glorifying” the situation remained, George Otim, country director for Plan International South Sudan, told the AP.
“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets. That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief,” he said. The auction was discussed, not carried out, on the site.
Facebook did not reply to a request for comment.
While South Sudan’s government condemns the practice of child marriage it says it can’t regulate communities’ cultural norms, especially in remote areas.
“You can’t call it bidding as if it was an auction. It’s not bidding. If you see it with European eyes you’ll call it an auction,” government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told the AP. “You have to see it with an African eye, as it’s a tradition that goes back thousands of years. There’s no word for it in English.”
Some local lawmakers and activists disagree. In a statement released this week, the National Alliance for Women Lawyers in South Sudan called upon officials to comply with the government’s plan to end child marriage by 2030. Ending the practice includes putting a stop to the auctioning of girls.
South Sudan’s anti-human trafficking chief called the case reminiscent of others he has seen across the country, in which girls are forced or tricked into marriage after being told they are going to live with relatives and go to school instead.
“It is clear that some human trafficking practices are hidden in our culture,” John Mading said.
In other cases, some girls who grow up in the South Sudanese diaspora are brought back to the country and forced to marry. The AP spoke with several people who know girls who arrived for what they thought was a vacation, only to have their passports taken away and forced into marriage by their families.
“Some families want children to marry in their countries and in their ethnic communities, but most do it if the kids are misbehaving,” said Esther Ikere Eluzai, undersecretary for South Sudan’s ministry of gender.
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