Korean Austinites respond to deadly artillery attack

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After North Korea launched artillery shells that killed four South Koreans last week, the Korean community in Austin expressed their concern for both countries and said they were saddened by the impoverished living conditions of North Korean people.

Richard Jung, vice president of the Korean American Association of Greater Austin, said South Koreans want to help the North Korean people by donating money, but they are hesitant to send money when the corrupt North Korean government spends it on its army.

“It is a dictatorship,” he said. “The people are starving to death, and they are still buying luxury goods for the elite.”

The division of the peninsula began during World War II, when the Soviet Union controlled North Korea and the U.S. controlled South Korea.

While South Korea’s capitalist economy thrives, the people of North Korea live in poverty under the rule of the country’s communist regime, Jung said. The countries have seen violent conflict for several decades.

“Living area is so concentrated,” Jung said. “South Korea is about the size of Indiana, and in one day of serious shelling, you could kill a lot of people.”

For years, the U.S. and five of North Korea’s neighboring countries have tried to negotiate with the communist country to dismantle its nuclear weapon programs in six-party international conferences.

“Economics play a big role in concerns over escalating tensions in Northeast Asia,” said journalism professor Tracy Dahlby in an e-mail.

Dahlby served as the Tokyo bureau chief for The Washington Post and Newsweek.

“The group is designed to act as a diplomatic forum for handling security issues in the region and to keep a lid on tensions on the Korean Peninsula that could affect the peace and security in the area and, ultimately, have a spoiler affect on the global economy,” he said.

Journalism junior Ann Choi holds dual American and South Korean citizenships. She said the people of South Korea are accustomed to attacks and threats by their northern enemy, and the conflict has always been among the military and government.

“[Violence] is North Korea’s only way of communicating with the outside world,” Choi said. “The only shocking part was that they fired towards
civilians.”

Choi also said the conflict is largely related to the political and economic issues in
North Korea.

“Our community first should start speaking up against the injustice of North Korea and the devastating conditions,” Choi said.

A 2008 UT alumnus, Don Choi is now a Presbyterian seminarian in Austin. He was an officer in student group Liberty in North Korea when he was a UT student.

Don Choi said he strongly supports preserving the human dignity of North Koreans and is afraid the United States’ portrayal of North Korea will be similar to the “dehumanizing tactics” they used when describing the Soviet Union during the Cold War.