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Escalating tensions prompt Hawaii travelers to postpone trips to Korea

(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

As world leaders wrap up the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, travel agencies in Hawaii are keeping an eye on the possible threat posed by North Korea.

Orient Travel Inc. specializes in tours between Hawaii and South Korea. Owner Albert Kim said his business drops about 20 percent when tensions flare up on the divided peninsula. He hopes that half of the customers will end up re-booking their trip for later this year.

"Some people who've been making arrangements a few months ahead might postpone it cause they don't know what's going to happen, but then if they made reservations in close range, then they like to cancel first," he said.

Provocations by North Korea include its fourth nuclear test in January as well as recent missile launches.

But some South Koreans now living in Hawaii aren't too concerned.

"Years go by and you get used to it so much. I know my parents, they've been through the war, and they're more concerned, like my mom goes, 'What if it starts a war?'" said Sofia Kim, business development director for MKO Corporation, which promotes tourism to Hawaii.

The United States and South Korea are taking part in annual military drills which are set to wrap up at the end of April.

"The level of rhetoric from North Korea this time of year is always quite high and quite intense," said Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East-West Center. "I don't see anything thus far that shows a break from the usual annual pattern which, thankfully, has not led to war up to now."

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama recently scoffed at GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump's suggestion that South Korea and Japan should consider arming themselves with nuclear weapons to counter the North Korean threat.

"They tell us that the person who made the statements doesn't know much about foreign policy, or nuclear policy or the Korean Peninsula or the world generally," said the president at a news conference at the end of the Nuclear Security Summit.

"Suggesting that South Korea and Japan should have their own nuclear weapons goes against decades of bipartisan U.S. policy," Roy said.

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