KC's Korean community on edge amid threats between Pyongyang, Washington

September 26, 2017 - 5:41 am

Kansas City's Korean community is accustomed to hearing angry rhetoric from the North Korean regime but that doesn't make it easy to hear more talk of war when they know they have loved ones in the region.

Monday North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-ho told reporters in New York that U.S. President Donald Trump had declared war on his country. Ri said Pyongyang had the right to shoot down U.S. bombers, even if they were not flying in North Korean airspace.

"I think there has be a little bit of increase of unrest; maybe something is going to happen," said pastor Evan Kim of Kansas Mission Church in Overland Park. "But I think it's more because of who our current president is rather than something different happening out of North Korea."

Pastor Kim says the ramping up in the tough talk makes him nervous. He wishes it would scale back, because he said it promotes division and hatred.

Some experts, though, are playing down the risk of a direct conflict. 

Kim Jong Un is likely trying to exert power through bellicose rhetoric, said Cooper Drury, a political science professor and expert in North Korea at the University of Missouri. 

"His main goal is to stay in power," Drury said. "To stay in power he needs to keep his small group of people around him happy; his generals and a few of his ministers."

Any real military action would not bode well for the Kim regime, Drury said.

"South Korea and Japan are strong allies of ours and seeing people die isn't a good thing, particularly if they're your allies and friends," Dury said. "A hot war would be a very bad thing."

Foreign minister Ri said President Trump openly declared war when he sent out a tweet that said the current leaders of North Korea would not "be around much longer" if they failed to town down their rhetoric. 

Kim has proven to be a very adept dictator and ruthless in his ability to consolidate and secure his hold on power, Drury said. The question, Drury said, is whether Kim will truly see Trump's words as a declaration of war and make the first move.

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