Korean Alaskans are watching the historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un anxiously. There’s a lot on the line and decades of hostility and conflict to work though.

“I think today’s meeting was very positive. I was concerned that they might actually walk out-- at least one of them-- but, I think it’s progressing very well and very smoothly so far,” said Andrew Kwon, president of the Korean American Community of Anchorage.

Kwon is one of about 6500 Koreans who live in Alaska. He has family in South Korea and thinks Trump and Jong-un will come to some sort of agreement during the summit. Kwong calls the situation in North Korea critical, saying the country’s entire economic situation could falter if someone like the United States doesn’t jump in. Kwon says Jong-un’s regime can’t even provide basic necessities for its people and is coming into the summit with the goal of ending the economic sanctions that have prevented foreign investment and trade.

However, Kwon does see signs of hope – and signs that the Jong-un regime is already open to loosening his iron grip. Kwon says about 4 million people in North Korea own a cellphone – that’s 18 percent of the population.

“That shows you there have been changes in North Korea already, and something like 70 some percent of North Koreans have been exposed to business trades and what have you because the government can no longer support them in their basic needs.”

However, Kwon hopes that the summit isn’t just about denuclearization and economic development. Kwon says for the summit to be a success, it must include a peace agreement between North and South Korea.

“Because we don’t talk about reunification at this point so the only way to assure long-term peace where everyone is satisfied where they are. Otherwise, there will be a need to attack or a need to grumble or a need to take someone else’s until they’re satisfied this is not over.”

Kwon says North Korea’s regime has been in place for more than 70 years, so peace and change won’t come overnight. However, he’s optimistic that even it does take years of negotiation, there will eventually be peace in the Korean peninsula.

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