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In response to anti-American protests in South Korea, members of the Queens Korean-American community have formed an organization in support of the United States.
About 30 people attended the inaugural meeting of United Korean Americans for America in Seoul Plaza in Flushing last Thursday.
"My friend's son went to Iraq the day before yesterday," said John Park, one of the founders of the group and president of the Korean American Community Empowerment Council. "We are Americans. We have to think that we are now here."
The formation of the group centers on recent events in the Korean peninsula, which have also prompted some members of Queens' Korean American community to question President Bush's tactics toward what he has termed a "rogue nation."
Several large anti-American rallies have been staged in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, in recent weeks in response to a statement from Secretary of State Colin Powell that the United States could take military action against both North Korea and Iraq at the same time. The United States has since softened its stance.
In the fall, North Korea revealed that it had been secretly developing a nuclear arms program in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty months after President George W. Bush called the communist nation part of the "Axis of Evil." North Korea, led by president Kim Jong Il, is withdrawing from the international treaty.
Incoming South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun questioned the strong U.S. stance against North Korea during his campaign and called for negotiations with the northern neighbor.
South Korea, a longtime U.S. ally, has appeared to shift its allegiance with Roh's election. Many of the nation's youth have staged large anti-American rallies, although other pro-American demonstrations have also taken place.
The formation of the Queens group is an attempt at showing that the growing anti-Americanism in South Korea has not carried over to the Korean-American community here.
Since emigration from North Korea to the United States is illegal, nearly all Korean-American immigrants in the country are from South Korea. Queens, and in particular Flushing, has become home to one of the nation's largest population of Korean immigrants.
"The majority of Korean-Americans here would not agree with them," said Park, referring to the anti-American rallies. "We condemn them."
Park, who as Democrat did not vote for Bush, criticized Roh as "very socialist."
"The president now he gives too much," he said.
Others Korean-American immigrants not a part of United Korean Americans for America, however, have cheered Roh.
"He's a good guy," said Dooman Kim, who works at Plaza Florist in Seoul Plaza in Flushing. "He's like Lincoln."
Some said they agreed that North Korea was a problem, but worried about Bush's handling of the situation.
Eugene Han the owner of Bareunson Video on Kissena Boulevard, said he thought a strong stance against North Korea was appropriate.
"As a concerned Korean-American, I would like to see the leadership in the north change as soon as possible," Han said.
But Han was hesitant to declare his full support for Bush and his policy. He said Bush's calling North Korea part of the "Axis of Evil" bothered him.
In addition, Han said he felt a subtle prejudice building against Korean Americans.
"It's just a general sense I get from the media," he said.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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