Korean-Canadian community torn over Trump-Kim summit
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, June 12, 2018 5:06PM EDT
Members of Canada's Korean community are watching the evolving relationship between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader with feelings that range from fascination to anxiety.
Trump lavished praise on Kim Jong Un during a historic summit in Singapore while continuing trade-related attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and some Koreans who now call Canada home say they're struck by how the president seems to be turning on an ally while failing to question the conduct of a dictator.
At least one group of former North Koreans now living in Canada say Trump's new willingness to foster closer ties with Kim are dangerous, and criticized the president for focusing on denuclearization rather than seeking answers about human rights in the country.
Another resident, however, finds the situation intriguing, saying he hopes it bridges the divide on the Korean peninsula and allows families to reunite.
Trudeau has offered support for Trump's discussions with Kim, but has steadfastly declined to weigh in on the president's fulsome praise of the North Korean leader and the intensifying verbal barbs thrown in his direction.
Rocky Kim, President of the Canada Federation of North Korean Defectors, joined international voices around the world questioning Trump's approach with the North Korean leader.
"Trump, he has to make the agenda on the table about North Korean human rights," he said in a telephone interview. "Denuclearization is very important, however ... there's nothing detailed. So we don't know what's going to happen."
The statements emerging from Trump's summit with the North Korean leader have been criticized as vague. The details of how and when North Korea would denuclearize as promised appear yet to be determined.
North Korea is believed to possess more than 50 nuclear warheads, with its atomic program spread across more than 100 sites constructed over decades to evade international inspections.
Rocky Kim, who describes the North Korean leader as an intelligent and crafty negotiator, said failing to secure firm pledges was both a mistake and a missed opportunity to seek some transparency on affairs in the country that has long functioned behind a curtain of secrecy.
But Toronto chef and writer Sang Kim struck a more hopeful note, saying the talks with Trump build upon a key meeting with the South Korean president earlier in the year.
The two summits in tandem, he said, signal a shift in the long and contentions relationship between the two Koreas and may spark hope for families who remain estranged by the "arbitrary border" between the two regions.
"Every single Korean family that I know personally have some member of their family ... who have been separated from others," he said. "To me the conjoining or the return to one another is a very, very necessary path to ultimate healing for that peninsula."
Sang Kim also noted the deepening contrast between Trump's treatment of Kim Jong Un and Trudeau.
Trump called the North Korean leader "worthy," "smart" and "talented" after the Singapore summit while days earlier describing Trudeau as "dishonest and weak" following a G7 summit in Quebec.
The president even took shots at Canada while in Singapore over what he has described as unfair trade tariffs and the country's supply management system.
"It's very unfair to our farmers, and it's very unfair to the people of our country," Trump said Tuesday. "It's very unfair, and it's very unfair to our workers, and I'm gonna straighten it out. And it won't even be tough."
With files from the Associated Press.