Many South Koreans were yesterday fuming after US President Donald Trump canceled a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying that they had been cheated of a chance of a lifetime to live in peace.
Trump called off the unprecedented meeting, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, after months of diplomatic progress had silenced bellicose rhetoric from the two sides and eased fears of a return to war.
“North Korea was in the process of doing everything that had been demanded of it. They even detonated their nuclear test site,” said Eugene Lim, a 29-year-old office worker in Seoul. “Trump has no interest in peace in our country. Why can’t he just let us, the two Koreas, live in peace?”
North Korea on Thursday said it “completely dismantled” its Punggye-ri nuclear test ground to “ensure the transparency of discontinuance of nuclear tests,” after blowing up tunnels at the site.
The detonation, which took place in the presence of dozens of international journalists, but no independent experts, came after Kim last month pledged to cease all nuclear and long-range missile tests.
Pyongyang also released three US prisoners as a goodwill gesture.
Dozens of university students and women’s rights activists yesterday protested at different rallies in Seoul to denounce Trump, with some punching a picture of his face on a picket sign and tearing his photograph apart.
Kim Dong-ho, a 38-year-old employee at a blockchain company, said it was not right to isolate North Korea again when it was making efforts to join the international community.
“After all, those of us living on the Korean Peninsula suffer the consequences of your action, you Yankee,” Kim Dong-ho said.
Trump also warned North Korea that the US military was ready in the event of any reckless acts.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who worked hard to help set up the summit and urged Trump at a White House meeting on Tuesday not to let a rare opportunity slip away, said he was “perplexed” by the cancelation.
North Korea said it remained open to resolving issues with the US, “regardless of ways, at any time.”
Trump yesterday said the summit could still take place on June 12 as originally planned.
“We’re going to see what happens. We’re talking to them right now. It could even be the 12th... We want to do it,” Trump told reporters.
South Koreans’ perception of North Korea, especially those in their 20s and 30s, has visibly softened after Kim Jong-un and Moon pledged no more war in their inter-Korean summit last month, several polls have shown.
A Gallup Korea survey early this month suggested that 88 percent of South Koreans thought that the inter-Korean summit was a success, while only 5 percent said it was a failure.
A survey of 106 university students at Kookmin University in Seoul showed that 57.3 percent had a positive image of Kim Jong-un after the summit, compared with 19.8 percent beforehand.
“It feels like Trump just knocked down all the efforts the two Koreas have put forward for the US-North Korea summit. For me, it feels like North Korea is more of a normal country, saying it would give the US time and wait,” 25-year-old office worker Yun Hae-ri said. “I don’t think Trump is doing the right thing if he wants to win the Nobel Peace Prize.”
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