Boston's Korean Community Reacts to Rising North Korea-US Tensions - NECN

Boston's Korean Community Reacts to Rising North Korea-US Tensions



    People say they're wary of leader Kim Jong Un (Published Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014)

    (NECN: Josh Brogadir, Boston) - There are thousands of Korean immigrants and Korean Americans living in greater Boston, and there is strong support for the South but there is some mixed reaction about what the North might do.

    Endless lines of soldiers are among the images of the North Korean military released to the public by state-run TV amid recent threats by 30-year-old leader Kim Jong Un about nuclear violence against South Korea and the United States.

    But are warnings about re-starting its plutonium reactor real or just posturing?

    "For such a country at such a disadvantage economically speaking, nuclear extortion has proven to be most successful national policy," said Tufts University Fletcher School Professor of Korean Studies Sung-Yoon Lee, speaking on this day to a conference about human rights in North Korea, knows for all the talk, the North has limits.

    "We know North Korea is not suicidal so they won't launch and all out war. They don't want to play that game because they will lose," Prof. Lee said.

    In Allston Village, six Korean restaurants and several other businesses are interspersed with music shops and check cashing stores.

    Boston-born, Brookline-raised Rich Kim owns Realty Lords, doing rentals and sales in this changing neighborhood. His parents came here in the '60s from South Korea and he has many friends and relatives living across the world.

    "South Koreans are just kind of moving on with their lives. It's almost like terrorism in the United States. You can't just kind of sit and wait and wonder. You have to move on with your lives and you have to work on your country and your government," Kim said.

    His great grandparents were from North Korea and so as part of a birthright trip in 2010 funded by the South Korean government, he visited the DMZ - the demilitarized zone that separates the North from the South along the 38th parallel.

    It's helped form his optimistic prayer that someday North Korea's history of atrocities against humanity will change.

    "After I spoke to a North Korean refugee, I just realized that it's a lot worse than what the media can even access into that country," Kim said.

    Rich Kim says even though he has North Korean heritage, he does not feel any allegiance to the North and adds he is concerned like many Korean Americans about the unpredictability of Kim Jong Un.