Nikki Gins was disappointed but not surprised when she heard President Donald Trump had called off next month’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
The past two weeks have been an emotional whirlwind for Gins, who was born in Busan, South Korea, and now lives in Mount Sinai. The summit, planned for June 12 in Singapore, had buoyed the hopes of many Korean-Americans as a first step toward Kim dismantling his nuclear arsenal.
“I was starting to feel hopeful, but now with today, it’s just a roller coaster, up and down,” said Gins, 52, a member of the Suffolk County Asian American Advisory Board.
The White House announcement Thursday followed growing uncertainty about the future of the talks. Both Kim and Trump had signaled strong disagreement over the speed of North Korea’s disarmament.
Gins said she was skeptical when the talks were announced. Then, she felt more optimistic after North Korea released three American prisoners earlier this month. She felt let down again Thursday.
But she and others in the Korean-American community are still hopeful for peace on the peninsula.
“Everyone feels that we don’t want to give up hope for peace and everything each country’s trying to do,” Gins said.
Jinyoung Jin, 45, of East Setauket, was jolted by the summit cancellation.
Jin, who moved from South Korea 20 years ago, was optimistic about the June summit. She thought the April meeting between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in was a monumental step toward repairing the relationship between the two countries and was encouraged to see Moon and Trump meet earlier this week.
“I didn’t see any signs of things going bad,” Jin said. “It’s very sudden news.”
Still, all the progress that has been made in such a short amount of time is still a reason for optimism among the Korean-American community, Jin said.
“As a person who grew up in the South, reunification has always been romanticized,” she said. “With everything that’s been happening so quickly, I’m hopeful it will happen within my generation.”
Foreign policy expert Julian Ku sees the United States and North Korean taking a step back to a standoff.
The cancellation could be a healthy development overall, though, if the summit is rescheduled, said Ku, a professor at Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.
“The two sides are so apart in what they were talking about. The U.S. wants to talk about the denuclearization of North Korea and North Korea wants to talk about a peace treaty,” Ku said. “If the North Koreans come back to the table with something, it’s likely there’ll be a better chance of success.”
Minsun Kim, the head of the Korean American Association of Greater New York, said the community is upset about the setback but she’s still optimistic.
“We have seen that what once seemed impossible has become a reality,” Kim, 57, of Manhasset, said of the meeting between Kim and Moon. “We didn’t expect to accomplish everything at once.”