- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 28, 2002

SEATTLE (AP) Young Min Park has an American name Michael American citizenship and has been mayor of an American town, Federal Way, about 30 miles south of here.
But even an ocean away and living this American life, Mr. Park shares the nervousness of many in his homeland as North Korea moves closer to creating nuclear weapons and sparking an international crisis.
"My family and friends who are living in South Korea, they are very concerned about the new scenario," said Mr. Park, who owns a dry-cleaning business. "It is a great danger not only to South Korea, but Japan."
Across the United States, many in the Korean-American community are anxiously watching developments on the Korean Peninsula as a standoff between North Korea and the United States escalates.
North Korea is poised to restart a nuclear-weapons facility, recently moving 1,000 fresh fuel rods to a storage facility at its main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon. Within months it could produce nuclear weapons with plutonium from the facility, experts say.
North Korea's leaders maintain that the restart is intended to provide electricity since Washington reneged on a 1994 promise to provide energy sources such as fuel oil.
The Bush administration is discussing options with a number of countries but has not publicly outlined a policy of military or diplomatic action.
South Korea's President-elect, Roh Moo-hyun, favors dialogue to ease tensions with North Korea.
The political twists and turns have captured the interests of many Korean Americans, said Wonmo Dong, who fled North Korea with his family when he was 12 and eventually moved to Seattle. Not only do they read Korean-language newspapers every day, but they read them "from page one to page 50," said Mr. Dong, the Korea program scholar-in-residence at the University of Washington.
Interest among Korean immigrants may be even higher than among some who live in Seoul, just south of the demilitarized zone, which separates the North and South, he said.
"People [there] are so used to this unbelievable continuity of … suspense on the Korean Peninsula," Mr. Dong said, unlike the nearly 47,000 Koreans the 2000 census reported to be living in Washington state.
In Los Angeles, in the center of the city's 200,000-member Korean community, many said they believe North Korea isn't serious about building nuclear weapons but is trying to bluff its way into a stronger bargaining position with the West.
"They're just playing," said Hee Lee, 42, who emigrated from South Korea 23 years ago. He suggests that North Korea wants to appear threatening to obtain more international aid. "Babies are hungry, crying, you give 'em more."
Some worry that the bigger threat is how the Bush administration deals with the communist state and whether it ends up antagonizing Pyongyang into action.
"If you want to deal with North Korea diplomatically, you don't say they're part of the axis of evil," said John Kim, president of the New York chapter of the National Association of Korean Americans.
Mr. Kim, a 50-year-old lawyer, emigrated in 1968 and has a brother and other relatives still living in South Korea. "I believe that the current crisis could have been resolved easily if the Bush administration had continued the engagement policy of the previous administration," he said.

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