Along Ellicott City's Korean Way, mixed views on North Korea summit

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Along Ellicott City’s Korean Way, a five-mile section of Route 40 named after a plethora of Korean-owned businesses, workers and residents expressed mixed views on President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s summit in that ended in Singapore Tuesday.

“It’s a miracle,” Eunsuk Mavaffari, a 57-year-old who works at H-Mart, an Asian-American supermarket, and is from South Korea, said of the historic meeting. “I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

After the summit, Trump and Kim praised their relations as a success in moving toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Trump said he is looking toward a “bright new future,” and Kim promising a “major change.”

Details of the protections the U.S. said they’d provide and North Korea’s ridding of nuclear weapons remained unclear. The summit comes about a year after the leaders traded offensive language — including “dotard” and “rocket man” — and North Korea threatened to send ballistic missiles to Guam.

Mavaffari, who lives in Ellicott City and has family from Seoul, South Korea, said she’ll keep “waiting and watching” to see what comes of U.S.-Korean relations following the summit, but that she’s not worried about possible nuclear threats.

Korean Way, which was state-designated in December 2016, has about 166 Korean-owned businesses, according to its promotional website. Ellicott City as a whole has a 26.4 percent Asian population, according to the most recent Census Bureau data, higher than Maryland’s 6.6 percent Asian population.

Daniel Kim, the vice president of Tous les Jours, a French-Asian bakery, said that “people don’t really care, everybody’s happy.”

“It’s pretty obvious North Korea can’t do anything,” Kim, 44, said. “If the United States keeps sanctions, no one can survive.”

Kim, who is from South Korea, added that former President Barack Obama helped “open the door” to North Korea and pushed it to become more progressive, like Iran. Trump “just got lucky,” he said, and that the outcomes were “meant to be.”

“The United States knows what’s going to happen — it’s just drama,” he said.

Kwon Lee, the manager of Han Joong Kwan, a Korean restaurant, pointed to his copy of The Korea Times, which had its front page focused on the summit. The 56-year-old, who came from South Korea to the United States in 1999, said Kim is “no good,” but that Trump needs to treat the country like an ally.

“I hope Trump protect North Korea and North Korea take out nuclearization,” Lee said.

Shitong Yu, 24, a Chinese international student who studies finance at Johns Hopkins University, expressed a tentative optimism regarding the summit while he shopped in H-Mart. North Korea faces the possibility of a burgeoning open market and capitalization should positive relations continue, while the U.S. could minimize its nuclear threat, he noted.

Yu did caution that onlookers should “be careful of every step [Trump and Jong Un] take.” He noted Jong Un could put up a peaceful facade until his country’s economy grows stronger and can seize opportunities to reinvest in North Korea.

“We want real peace, not fake peace,” he said.

With reporting from The Associated Press

lbrennan@baltsun.com

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