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Hope is tenuous in South Korea

In the bustling city of Seoul, citizens’ opinions have been dwindling ever since the last meet, questioning how ‘hopeful’ they can be. (Sarah Se-Jung Oh/YJI)

Seongnam, SOUTH KOREA – When the leaders of North and South Korea met at the border that had divided their people and clasped hands, the world changed for Koreans.

In the bustling cities of South Korea, people gathered around public televisions, flicked their phones on, and tuned into the most historic day. Hope surfaced from disheartened faces and surreal excitement tingled on many fingertips.

That was the day when a child in the North and another in the South could look up at the same patched sky and realize that it’s not the only connection that holds them.

It’s was the day when a woman, man or child finally feels closer to being able to hold the hand of her mother, his sister, her brother – after decades of separation.

It was the day when the divide was blurred.

Koreans have been divided for decades. (Sarah Se-Jung Oh/YJI)

Since then, plans between the two Koreas keep changing – especially with regard to involvement by U.S. President Donald Trump – but hopes for peace remain.

South Koreans haven’t had as momentus a day as April 27, 2018 since 1953.

That’s when Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, crossed over to South Korea to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula with South Korea President Moon Jae-In Meeting at the border drawn more than 50 years ago, Kim walked over to the South, shaking Moon’s hands firmly. Although casual, Kim’s step across the border rallied the public.

His crossing made the border a mere concrete slab. Something tangible. Something so penetrable to just step over.

As unreal as this moment felt, countless South Korean citizens expressed their hope for the historic day when both sides agreed to denuclearize and further cooperate with each other.

“This is a dream come true to me and probably for everyone here. The meeting is a key step that I hope is a beginning to a series of peaceful talks for the future of Korea as a whole,” said Ok Hi Choii, a South Korean with North Korean heritage.

High school students also held optimistic views on the meet.

As Kelly Shin, a student attending Korea International School said, “I am not sure if it’s significant, but it’s gonna be a small step in dealing with tensions between North and South, and a small step towards progress is better than none.”

There are plans to hold a meeting between the North Korean leader and the U.S. president here, in Singapore. (Selvaganeshamoorthi Balakrishnan/YJI)

Yet, as hopeful as these citizens were, the status quo does not seem to hold up their hopes. Ever since the leaders first meeting at the border, a cascade of abrupt unexpectancy and ambiguity pervaded on a global level.

Trump canceled the arranged June 12 meeting he had with Kim because of perceived insults and threats for nuclear war. Although further speculation exists that a meeting will occur between the two in Singapore, there is no certainty now.

Just about two months ago, the two Korean leaders and Trump agreed on multiple levels to cooperate with one another, one of which is to match North Korea’s time to that of South Korea: a 30-minute pull forward.

This landmark day should be engraved in Korean history not as a mere smear on a page, but a reminder that the sky above isn’t the only thing that binds us.

There’s the land, the people and the country, now all synchronized and governed under one time and one identity.

But the abrupt changes batter the hopes that had surfaced among the people, leaving them under a swing of emotions, uncertainty and doubt.

Sarah Se-Jung Oh is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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