Thursday, June 15, 2000

Korean-Americans welcome news of pact

Tristaters especially praise family reunions

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Tristate members of the Korean-American community were cautiously optimistic Wednesday upon hearing the news of the reconciliation pact between the two Koreas.

        “That is very remarkable and significant progress, but not totally unexpected,” said Han-Kyp Kim, 71, of Indian Hill. “North Korea is suffering from severe economic problems. And South Korean aid is essential for recovery.”

        He said the agreement to allow families separated by the national divide to hold reunions was one of the significant concessions contained in the agreement.

        “All around, this is a development that should be welcomed by all,” Mr. Kim said.

        Mr. Kim, who came to the United States in 1953, covered the Korean War for a South Korean newspaper. A retired University of Cincinnati political science professor, he noted that the United States still has a significant military presence in South Korea.

        Kyongwon Ahn, 63, of Montgomery, agreed that reuniting families separated for the last 50 years would be a great achievement.

        “There are many old people longing to see their families before they die,” he said. “I hope their dream comes true.”

        Mr. Ahn, the lay council president of St. Andrew Kim Korean Catholic Society of Cincinnati, said South Koreans cannot even send letters to relatives in North Korea. It's illegal.

        “I think for the country's sake, it is wonderful,” said Lilly Ham of West Chester. “It is a very historical moment. It's exciting that the two leaders of the country met for the first time in 50 years.”

        Mrs. Ham hopes the move will lead to reunification, but doesn't think that will happen any time soon. She questions the motives of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il., who is in desperate need of foreign cash to prop up his country's collapsed economy.

        Mrs. Ham, who came to the United States in 1972, is a real estate agent and volunteers as an interpreter to help other Koreans find jobs and housing.

        The Korean American Association of Greater Cincinnati estimates that there are about 2,000 Korean-Americans living in the area.

        Korea coverage from Associated Press

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