Koreans in Triangle hope Kim's death brings change
Posted December 19, 2011
Knightdale, N.C. — Some of the nearly 8,000 Korean-Americans who live in the Triangle said Monday that they hope new leadership in North Korea will help the people of that country.
Kim Jong Il, the son of North Korea's founder and its leader for the past 17 years, died over the weekend after suffering a heart attack. His youngest son, Kim Jong Un, is expected to become the next president of the communist nation that is shut off from most of the world and is dealing with chronic food shortages.
"I hope they'll be able to save people living in North Korea, and I hope they'll be open to more freedom (and) communication with international society," said Jun Lee, a native of South Korea and owner of Black Belt World.
Lee has lived in North Carolina for 24 years, building his Knightdale-based tae kwon do business into a chain of 10 studios. But he always keeps an eye on events in the Korean peninsula and has even visited North Korea several times to build relationships through tae kwon do.
"I do think peace and reconciliation in South Korea, in the Korean peninsula, will happen," he said.
Myung Kim, president of the Raleigh Korean Association, said she hopes the younger Kim doesn't choose to follow in his father's footsteps in terms of leadership. Kim Jong Un should focus more on improving the economy and welfare of the people instead on building military might, she said.
Franklin Graham, whose Samaritan's Purse charity has provided medical and food relief to North Korea for more than a decade, said Kim Jong Il's death gives the U.S. an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with the isolated country.
"My prayer is that President Obama will reach out to the (country's) new leader and extend a helping hand to the people who are suffering through an early cold winter and serious food shortages," Graham said in a statement. "This could go a long way in easing tensions between the two nations and promote harmony and goodwill."
Both Lee and Kim have family in South Korea, but neither is concerned that North Korea will attack their homeland.
"I think we are part of one family, and the lost brothers and sisters – we have confidence – someday we will be reunited," Lee said, noting that a growing number of people in South Korea no longer view North Koreans as their enemies.