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Chicago Koreans Express Relief, Hope After Kim Jong Il’s Death

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Chicago’s Korean community is reacting to the death of Kim Jong Il. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The news of dictator Kim Jong Il’s death is rocking Chicago’s Korean community, where many people are expressing relief.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the instability in the Korean Peninsula is often on the minds of senior citizens who immigrated to the Chicago area from South Korea.

Many of them were teenagers or young adults when the country divided and the Kim family took power in the north.

Thus, news of Kim Jong Il’s death stirred up a lot of feelings.

Dozens of Chicago area Koreans gathered Monday morning for meditation and prayer at the Center for Seniors, at 5320 N. Kedzie Ave. in the North Park neighborhood.

The death of Kim Jong Il was one of the main topics on people’s minds.

“Frankly speaking, I am so glad to hear that,” said one man, Kim Key Soo.

Center for Seniors executive director Jae Kwan Ha had no love lost for Kim Jong Il either.

“A couple of years ago, more than a million people starved to death. A similar situation is there now today, and anyway, he’s a failure, politically and economically,” he said.

Is there hope for the future in North Korea under Kim Jong Il’s son, Kim Jong Un, or for him to do good in the country?

“I can’t say yes or no,” he said. “But I don’t believe him”

But while there is a feeling of uncertainty Kim Jong Un, there is still relief.

“I hope for it to be a turning point in the Korean Peninsula” added Kim Key Soo, adding that he hoped reunification might be possible.

Even for those who do not follow American media, it was hard to miss the biggest news in the world. Community spokesman Jin Lee showed one Korean-language newspaper that had Kim Jong Il’s death displayed prominently on the front page.

“I believe the Korean community is kind of shocked and very surprised, but at the same time, we are kind of aware, too, of a circumstance that he wasn’t feeling well for a couple of years,” Lee said.

At the Hanul Family Alliance, a social service agency at 5008 N. Kedzie Ave. in the Albany Park neighborhood, Koreans were opinionated in about the future of their country.

Yu Ji Bo says since Kim Jong Il died, he hopes North and South Korea reunify soon.

Overall, Koreans are not sure if Kim Jong Il’s death will worsen the situation in Korea, or lead to an end to the Kim regime.

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