North Koreans Give Thanks, Reflect About Their Homeland

John Awe
John Awe

By Leland Kim

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - Today local Koreans observe Korean thanksgiving. But for a group of North Korean nationals, a time of celebration has become a moment of reflection about their homeland.

There are about 200 native North Korean living in Hawai'i. Most of them escaped during the 1940s and have not been back in more than 50 years. So today, they experienced a Thanksgiving unlike others in recent memory.

It's a melding of two cultures: Korean and American.

For this group of native North Koreans, a time to give thanks turned into a moment of reflection about their homeland.

"This is a really tragedy," said John Awe, a native North Korean. "Worst tragedy for them, and tragedy for me, too."

"My sadness lies there," said Chul Run Park, a native North Korean. "The fact that all this effort that North Korea has made has turned out to be the seed of evil."

And as the North Korea situation escalates, those who have family in the South, are fearful.

"We're worried because the first damage's going to be on South Korea," said Mark Sim, a Korean American.

Despite the concerns, traditional Korean fan dancers came to boost spirits.

And of course, a feast wouldn't be complete without traditional Korean barbecue.

But amid all this, these native North Koreans remain worried because they know all too well what their countrymen must face.

"In North Korea, most them cannot say anything because if you say something against the government, they will be punished right on the spot," said Awe.

Many escaped the North as teenagers, often with the help of U.S. servicemen.

"If the American force did not come to North Korea, I would not have had a chance to come to South Korea for freedom," said Awe.

Some eventually immigrated to the U.S., where they found a new home.

"We are proud of it, of being American citizens and also we pray for America," said Awe.

They pray for their new homeland and the one they left behind.