Virginia Korean community on edge as tensions escalate

High tensions put local Koreans on edge

FAIRFAX, VA (WUSA9) - In the heart of one of one of the country’s largest Korean communities, flat-screen televisions broadcast the evening news from Seoul, as morning begins in Annandale.

Bakeries open for business, and restaurants illuminate English and Korean neon signs, with few words spoken about Kim Jong Un.

“It’s a sensitive subject, and we can only go about our lives as normal,” said Fairfax resident Kwang Lee in an interview Monday. “My best friends are in Seoul, I just think, and I hope, this is only Kim trying to test the new president.”

Behind Latino residents, Korean-Americans form the second largest immigrant group in Virginia. More than 100,000 people with Korean heritage populate the region, with stretches of Korean businesses in Annandale rivaling concentrations of shops seen in Koreatown near downtown Los Angeles.

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Most in Fairfax’s Korean community have family members still in South Korea, mere miles from the nuclear north. While conversations in public rarely turn to imagining the worst, privately, some fear one side may have reached a turning point.

“If someone miscalculates, it could be World War III,” said JoAnn Lee, shopping at a Korean fashion boutique near the center of Annandale. “But the last time I was there, people in Seoul have no choice, they have to go about their daily lives.”

The reflections by first generation Americans comes as Vice President Mike Pence told South Korean officials Monday “the era of strategic patience is over.” But for families 7,000 miles away, patience is what most cling to.

“I want both sides to think rationally about what they’re doing,” JoAnn continued. “This isn’t just chess. These are families. It’s difficult, but often in this situation, the more things change with presidents or politics, the more they remain the same.”

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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