It was the handshake many Korean Americans never thought they’d see in their lifetime — one between a US president and a North Korean leader.
For dozens who gathered in the heart of Koreatown in Los Angeles, the historic meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, brought cheers and tears. This was more than a handshake — but a lifetime of waiting to see these two countries share a stage.
Spectators gathered at a Koreatown restaurant on Monday night, raised their beer high and chanted, “Peace! Korea!” They waved pictures of a unified Korean peninsula and celebrated.
Amid the applause and toasts though, there was also a sense of caution.
Decades of tumultuous political relations have left some Korean Americans jaded and wary. The war 65 years ago, divided the peninsula and also cleaved families on other sides of the DMZ, leaving many with little idea of whether their relatives are still alive in North Korea.
Tony Kim, a LA resident, was visibly emotional watching the summit unfold.
“This is a historic event. In my lifetime, I didn’t think I’d live to see this day,” Kim said. “This was a different narrative. This is not something we’d ever expect. But I’m a little skeptical and trying to taper my expectation, but it’s a good first step to see this actually happening.”
He said that his parents were from North Korea and migrated south during the Korean War.
“Having family back there, people I’ve never met… North Korea has always been this stain in reality that we have to content with as Koreans,” Kim said.
Over beer and diner food, about 30 spectators watched the summit at the restaurant, Pipers.
When they saw Trump and Kim shake hands, some burst into tears. Insook Lee was one of them.
“It’s been too long — 70 years separated,” she said. “It’s a real good first step towards peace on the Korean peninsula.”
Others had questions about whether this was really a pathway to reunification between the two Koreas and would denuclearization happen? But on Monday night, many gave way to hope.
James An also choked back emotions.
“I just had a baby,” he said. “She’s Korean-American. I’d love for her to visit Korea, as one country… It breaks my heart. I’m breaking down when I talk about it. If not for us, do it for our kids.”
“I’d love to see our country unified again.”