Korean community watches for signs of instability

December 19, 2011 3:16:05 PM PST
Koreans in the Chicago area are watching closely for any signs of a rocky transition of power in North Korea.

The news of Kim Jong Il's death was shocking to many Korean Americans. But that was quickly replaced with some hope for a brighter future and a unified Korea, and also concern that even darker days are ahead.

At the Center for Seniors on North Kedzie, Korean Americans can shoot some pool, grab some lunch, and get caught up on current events in their native country. Monday, many were keeping a close eye on satellite TV as it broadcast more details about the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.

It is news that 83-year-old Keysoo Kim said he is happy to hear.

"North Korean people destroyed our family," Kim said.

But Won J. Park says the main feeling among Korean Americans is concern that already devastating conditions could get worse. Park is a news producer and anchor at KBC-TV Channel 41 in Chicago and has been busy covering Kim Jong Il's death.

"Because of Kim Jong Il, the situation in North Korea got worse, especially financially. A lot of people died of starvation," said Park.

Throughout Koreatown on the Northwest Side there is concern than Kim Jong Il's death will have a destabilizing effect on the region, but there is also hope for a better future.

"I hope his passing leads to a regime change In North Korea and this becomes an opportunity towards a peaceful reunification of two Koreas," said Inchul Choi, Korean American Community Services.

But not much is known about Kim Jong Il's son, who has been named his successor.

"I think we're entering into a period of tense instability," said Illinois Senator Mark Kirk.

Kirk said Monday he is concerned Kim Jong Un could make some kind of power play to establish his regime and that he is glad President Barack Obama called South Korean leadership to reaffirm an alliance.

"My hope is, regardless of what's happening in Pyongyang, the government makes no action against our South Korean allies," said Kirk.

Kim Jong Il's funeral is December 28. Senator Kirk says, if the US is invited, then the US should send a delegation.

Kirk said it is always a good idea to take any opportunity to build a new relationship.

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