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.”

Judge in Spain drops extradition bids for 6 Catalan fugitives

Updated 11 min 13 sec ago

Judge in Spain drops extradition bids for 6 Catalan fugitives

MADRID: A Spanish Supreme Court judge on Thursday dropped extradition requests for six politicians wanted on rebellion charges for their roles in promoting independence for Spain’s Catalonia region, including former regional president Carles Puigdemont.
The decision was a major setback for Spain’s legal efforts to crack down on the wealthy Catalan region’s secessionist movement and keeps alive an issue that last year brought Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades.
Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid arrest after the Spanish government removed him and his Cabinet from office at the end of October. He was arrested in Germany in March as he was traveling from Finland to Brussels and is believed to be living in Hamburg.
The Spanish judge withdrew his extradition requests after a German court ruled last week that Puigdemont could not be sent back to Spain for rebellion, only for the lesser charge of embezzlement connected to the alleged misuse of public funds for holding a referendum on secession that a judge had disallowed.
Puigdemont said the decision exposed “huge shortcomings” in the Supreme Court’s legal case against the separatists, including nine who are in Spanish jails awaiting possible trial and whom the separatist movement regards as victims of political persecution.
“Today is a day to demand, with greater fervor than ever, freedom for the political prisoners,” Puigdemont tweeted after Llarena’s decision.
Judge Pablo Llarena was scathing in his assessment of the German court’s decision, describing it as “a lack of commitment” in pursuing the fugitives. Llarena wants Puigdemont and his separatist allies to face charges of rebellion and sedition, as well as misuse of public funds.
If Puigdemont and the others were extradited solely for alleged embezzlement, Spanish prosecutors would be able to put them on trial just on that charge. Rebellion carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years in Spain, while misuse of public funds is punishable by up to 12 years.
Llarena said in a decision published Thursday that he was revoking the international arrest warrants for the six fugitive former officials, a development the Catalan separatist movement took as a victory against Spain’s central authorities.
The first deputy speaker of the regional parliament in Catalonia, Josep Costa, tweeted “Llarena KO.”
Puigdemont’s lawyer, Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, declared triumph, writing on Twitter: “It looks like we have a memorable summer.”
The charges are in connection with the Catalan regional government’s unauthorized Oct. 1 referendum on independence from Spain and a subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by the separatist-controlled regional parliament.
The declaration won no international recognition, but the standoff between regional powers in the Catalan capital, Barcelona, and national authorities in Madrid put Spain in the international spotlight.
A German court last week said Spain’s rebellion charge was not recognized in Germany and that related German statutes — such as the law against treason — did not apply because Puigdemont’s actions “did not rise to this kind of violence.”
If the six fugitive politicians return to Spain voluntarily, they would still face rebellion and sedition charges.
The other fugitive politicians apart from Puigdemont are Antoni Comin, Meritxell Serret and Lluis Puig, who also fled to Belgium, Clara Ponsati, who is in Scotland, and Marta Rovira, who is believed to be in Switzerland.