With South Korea's first female president, Park Geun-hye, holding a joint press conference Tuesday with President Obama in Washington, local Korean Americans reacted to Monday's charging of a Glenview man, Gary Tsai, and his Taiwanese father, with trying to use their businesses to ship to North Korea materials which could be used to make weapons of mass destruction.
Jin Lee, who was sworn in Monday as a member of the Maine Township High School District 207 school board, said the first thought that occurred to him and other Korean Americans he spoke with was, "there is no way U.S. companies (presuming they were in fact registered in the United States) could ship to North Korea because of the embargo in place since the 1990s."
He allowed that if the Tsais shipped to China and then secretively tried to get the material into North Korea, that might be possible.
Asked whether local Korean Americans were worried that South Korea might be the target of North Korean weaponry, Lee said most South Koreans were not very concerned because North Korea has so often made empty threats to the South.
"They're somewhat numbed by it," he said. North Korea has time and time again played out a scenario in which it threatens South Korea, and South Korea and the West respond by trying to de-escalate the situation and provide food aid and other resources to North Korea.
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North Korea knows full well it cannot attack South Korea without provoking a blinding South Korean military retaliation, Lee said, adding that the United States and China would not stand idly by, either.
Lee also referenced the fact that North Korea has banned South Koreans and foreigners from the large Kaesong business plant, which is near the North and South Korean border on the North Korean side. The industrial complex has benefitted both sides, by giving South Korean businesses access to cheap North Korean labor and giving North Koreans employment.
"They (North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un) want South Korea to say 'let's calm down and continue this business relationship', but their misjudgment is huge," Lee said. He explained that not only is President Park of South Korea tired of North Korea's threats, but that China, whom the North Koreans hoped would take over the Kaesong plant, is not interested because it has its own inexpensive labor.
"They (North Korea) misjudged (South Korean) President Park," he said. "She's like her father who was president previously. They misjudgd her character and the issues of the North Korea-South Korea relationship. She's not budging."