Ethnic Korean students in Japan paid close attention to the historic U.S.-North Korea summit Tuesday, with Korea International School in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, holding a special session that showed a live broadcast of the landmark summit on a classroom screen.
When U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared on the screen, the students cheered and applauded, while some captured the historic moment on their smartphones.
“It is unnatural that a state of war continues between (South and North Korea) as they used to be one country. I hope there will be a declaration of the end of war through this summit,” said No Seon Sim, 16.
“I was moved by the handshake between the two leaders,” said Do Ga Ya, 17, who was born to ethnic Korean parents in Japan and raised in the United States. “I will be happy if North Korea and South Korea become one in the near future.”
North Korean defectors living in Japan have expressed more complicated feelings over the Trump-Kim summit, unsure whether it will lead to a change in the dictatorial regime.
“I may be able to return home if North Korea undergoes reforms and opens up like China sometime in the future,” said a defector in his 30s, who goes by the pseudonym Kim Hyun Woo and was born in North Korea then came to Japan.
“I don’t think the North Korean regime will change for the better immediately but I felt hope” after watching the summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim in April, which paved the way for the Trump-Kim summit, the defector said.
Another defector who goes by the pseudonym Cho Myung Duk said he cannot hope for an improvement in the North Korean regime. The amelioration of relationships between North Korea and South Korea as well as Pyongyang and Washington will likely result in providing the North with economic assistance, he said.
In that situation “Kim Jong Un and his dictatorial regime that suppresses human rights will be protected until he dies,” Cho said. “I wonder why they cannot imagine that. I don’t think South and North Koreas will become united through dialogue. There is no way but to continue exerting pressure to topple the North Korean dictatorial regime.”
There are about 200 defectors living in Japan, including some who originally moved to North Korea from Japan under the 1959-1984 repatriation program or their relatives, according to a support group.