National News

Koreatown’s Wary Response to the Trump-Kim Meeting

Posted June 12, 2018 11:57 a.m. EDT

The moment was historic, its significance marked by breathless news coverage across the globe. President Donald Trump and the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un met in Singapore, the first such encounter between leaders of the United States and North Korea, and the opening step in a delicate dance meant to de-escalate tensions between the two countries.

But you may not have known it from an evening out in Los Angeles’ Koreatown neighborhood on Monday, where residents and visitors carried on as usual while the two men shook hands a world away.

Kim certainly inspires passionate disavowals among Korean-Americans and immigrants living here, but his meeting with Trump drew muted interest across Korean bars, restaurants and entertainment spaces.

At a billiards hall in Koreatown, Yoon Hong Jung, 69, said that he was waiting to see what comes out of the meeting before he decides whether it was a good or bad idea. Yoon, who moved to the United States from South Korea 18 years ago, added that he has little faith that Kim has good intentions when it comes to nuclear disarmament.

“He’s a terrorist,” said Yoon, who still has family in South Korea. “I don’t believe Kim Jong Un.”

Asked if he had been watching the news coverage, he pointed at the pool hall’s television with a slight shrug; the program on display was a Korean talk show. “Kim Jong Un is evil,” he added, and he did not need to watch the news to make up his mind about that. He soon returned to his game.

Lee Inho, 20, who moved to the United States when he was 5, said he was not even aware there was a meeting happening. “That’s something Americans care about,” he said with a smile, before walking back to a pool table to take his turn.

Down the street, at a cafe blasting Korean pop music, Oh Sooh-Ah, 21, said that she had followed the coverage of the meeting in Korean newspapers. But Oh, who left Korea nearly 11 years ago, said she and her family have scarcely discussed the meeting. She added that Korean families are often reluctant to discuss politics.

She also said her life here in the United States felt a long way away from the problems facing the Korean Peninsula.

“Of course we’re worried, our friends and families are there,” she said. “I’m not saying people don’t care. But people here aren’t feeling the reality of it.”