SINGAPORE: South Koreans around the world will be closely watching events in Singapore next week to see if the United States-North Korea summit on Jun 12 will be a success.
Those living here will have a ringside seat to the historic event, and everyone that Channel NewsAsia spoke to on Wednesday (Jun 6) said they have high hopes that the meeting will pave the way for a security breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula.
They want US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to declare a formal end to the 1950 to 1953 Korean War, which only stopped after an armistice, not a peace treaty, was signed.
Such a declaration is important, they said, because South Koreans back home want to stop living under the threat of war, and that most people hope for eventual reunification.
The South Koreans here also said they were pleasantly surprised that Singapore was chosen to host the “special” meeting, adding that they will “definitely” be tuning in for a slice of the action.
“If it’s successful, it will be better for South Korea and the world,” waiter Lee Dong-il, 48, said during a busy lunchtime shift at the Obba Jjajang restaurant in Tanjong Pagar, whose main drag is littered with Korean barbecue and noodle eateries.
Mr Lee, who has been living in Singapore for a decade, said he “never expected” that the city-state would host the summit, adding that he will be following developments closely.
Down the road at the Koryo Mart, businessman Kim Sun-cheon, 52, had just finished shopping for groceries. “Every Korean is the same,” he said. “We want to make peace.”
Mr Kim added that he would like to see the two Koreas reunite, even if it happens “20 or 50 years” in the future. “We are never thinking about two countries,” he stated. “We always think, just one.”
At another Koryo Mart in nearby Telok Ayer, store manager Kwon Se-hoon, 47, said he welcomes the summit and echoed calls for peace and reunification.
“We were always ready for war. Very tragic,” he said softly as K-pop tunes blared in the background. “That's why all Korean people want peace.”
Mr Kwon added that it was “very special” that Singapore was chosen for the summit, especially as it brought together leaders of countries that historically were never on friendly terms.
While homemaker Jang Yun-ji, 31, also hopes for a successful summit, she wants the US to stop meddling in affairs on the Korean Peninsula. “Trump always makes it messy,” said Ms Jang, who has been living in Singapore for 10 years. “We have to talk more with North Korea.”
Ms Jang said it was “amazing” that Singapore was picked for the summit, but added that she might have to give it a miss because she’s leaving on Thursday for a holiday.
“It’s a very big day,” she added. “I’m so sad that I won’t be here.”
"I REALLY WANT TO GO THERE"
At the Singapore Korean International School tucked away in a leafy Bukit Timah private estate, the summit is a big deal too.
Politics teacher Lee Deok-hyoung, 38, said there are plans to screen the summit in school, adding that he has discussed the summit with his students, who expressed similar hopes for peace.
Likewise, Mr Lee hopes for a declaration to end the war so South Koreans back home can stop living "nervously".
Mr Lee added that Singapore is the "best option" to hold the summit as it has good relations with both North Korea and the US. "It's amazing because I am directly watching it on this ground," he continued. "I really want to go there, but I know I cannot."
Student Kim Do-hyung, 18, said the school also spent an entire period screening the meeting between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, adding that the event "touched" many students.
He expects the upcoming summit in Singapore to be equally significant, hoping it would lead to more cooperation between the two Koreas and eventually reunification. "This will reduce tensions in South Korea and make citizens feel more secure," he said.
SOUTH KOREA'S ROLE
Amid reports that Mr Moon might also attend the summit, the South Koreans interviewed said they would try to meet him if their schedule permits, as they praised his policy of pursuing peace with the North.
"I think the Korean government played a very visible role to make this summit happen," Mr Lee said at the school. "The two countries had a lot of problems with each other before this."
Mr Lee added that it would be an honour to meet Mr Moon in person.
The Republic of Korea Embassy in Singapore did not immediately respond to a request for comment on plans to engage the South Korean community here in the event Mr Moon attends.
However, Yonhap News Agency reported on Monday that South Korea is still watching negotiations between the US and North Korea to determine whether Mr Moon travels to Singapore.
Meanwhile, the Korean Association in Singapore said it has put up posters in support of the summit in the Tanjong Pagar area. It might also organise a get-together at 9am on Jun 12, when the summit takes place.
Professor Sumit Agarwal of the National University of Singapore said he expects a joint declaration of an end to the Korean War to come out of the summit. But he cautioned that "the bigger goal of eliminating nuclear weapons from the peninsula and unification are far-fetched dreams at this point".