As the combat phase of the war in Iraq draws to a close, the attention of the world shifts to North Korea.
American ambassadors will meet this week with Chinese and North Korean diplomats to discuss the precarious situation regarding North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. The Korean student community at UCSB has expressed a range of opinions on the tensions between the United States and North Korea.
Helen Chen, a member of the Korean-American Campus Missions program, expressed surprise that Iraq was targeted before North Korea.
“I think it’s ironic because North Korea has blatantly admitted that they are producing nuclear weapons, and yet we bomb a country where our own investigators have searched and come up with nothing,” Chen said.
Edwin Lee, president of the Korean Student Association, said the U.S. war with Iraq has changed perceptions in Korea.
“My grandparents are in South Korea. Their opinion of the process was good. Now they are worried about what might happen. In South Korea there are a lot of anti-American and anti-war feelings,” Lee said.
Chen also questioned the tactics used by the U.S. government.
“Regardless of the case, whether it be Iraq or North Korea, I don’t think the U.S. policy of preemptive strike is the way to go to solve things.” she said.
Lee also said he had concerns about past U.S. actions. He said the situation with North Korea could affect the people of South Korea tremendously.
“I’ve been pro on the issue of the North and South reuniting. It’s been going pretty well. There was great progress made during Clinton’s administration, as the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to participants for it,” Lee said. “The progress that was made is now threatened.”
The Korean Student Association has been among the most active organizations in addressing the situation. Because the Korean community in Santa Barbara is relatively small, the Santa Barbara chapter of KSA conducts a large number of their activities with other chapters in the Los Angeles and southern California area.
Last week their members attended a hip hop music event in Los Angeles. It was put on in association with the Eugene Bell Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing the people of North Korea with vaccinations and medical supplies. Lee said members from over 50 chapters of the Korean Student Association from across California attended the event in L.A.’s Koreatown.
All proceeds of the summit went directly to the Eugene Bell Foundation.
The group also is planning a discussion night with its members, with the strained U.S.-North Korea relations as a possible topic.
“Our goal [with the summit] was to help starving civilians.” Lee said. “We are a more social group, and we try not to do things that will offend the members, but if the members bring issues up we will address them,” he said.
The meeting in Beijing this week between American, North Korean and Chinese diplomats will be the first between the three governments since the end of the Korean War. In recent weeks North Korea has disclosed it is recycling spent nuclear fuel rods with the intent of using them to build a nuclear weapon. In January the North Korean government withdrew from the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.