Chicago-area Koreans find reason for hope in 2018 Olympics

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North and South Korea are competing together at the 2018 Olympics, a move that brings hope to local Korean Americans. (WLS)

Itak Seo's father had his family ripped apart during the Korean War. Some stayed in North Korea, others went to South Korea.

But as the Koreas march together in the Olympics, Seo sees potential for progress.

"This is the first step I think for North and South to show to United States, to China, to Japan, and to the entire world that talk could work," Seo said.

Seo is now the president of the Korean American Association of Chicago

At the 2018 Olympics, there will be a show of unity from North and South Korea in their shared women's ice hockey team, which will compete as "Korea" under a shared flag.

That gives some families hope.

"They are hoping for something happening in the future," Seo said. "Especially those divided families. They will be saying, 'oh, maybe I can be meeting my brother, my sister now.'"

Foreign policy experts said people need to take that hope with a big grain of salt.

"Well initially, it looks like South Korea got a fairly bad deal out of this," said Karl Friedhoff, a Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Friedhoff says this Olympics, North Korea wins.

"Now they're just buying time," Friedhoff said. "They get the way better end of this deal. They've committed nothing. They get to show up at the Olympic Games, which is a prestigious event, which is what they want to be involved in, and seen as a 'responsible' stakeholder, even though it's clear that they are not."

North Korea showed its might with a military parade Thursday. Kim Jong Un's sister will become the first of the ruling dynasty to step foot in South Korea since before the war.

And yet, Seo said that Koreans here in Chicago, "hope this Olympics, it's going to be a tool for the peacemaking in the Korean peninsula."
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