IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) – Customers and store employees stop at the check-out counter at the Koamart, a Korean market in Irving, to glance at copies of a flyer written in Korean.
You don’t have to read the language to understand what’s drawing their attention. There is a picture of Kim Jong Il on the flyer with “1941~2011” under it.
“They’ve been ruling for 37 years, I guess,” one man mumbles to another as they read the flyer.
Cultures blend in the store. There are aisles of food packages emblazoned in Korean and food products most Americans would not be familiar with. But shoppers in the market push carts along to the beat of American Christmas carols on the store’s PA system. These Korean-Americans immediately turn their thoughts to people in the homeland.
“I guess the reaction is good,” said John Song, a store employee, when asked about Kim’s death. “But we’re kind of nervous because that communist nation — no one knows about that country because they’re so isolated and they have their own communist country and philosophy and lives.”
“A lot of people worry the new leader is going to follow in his father’s footsteps and rule with an iron fist as Kim Jong Il did for 37 years,” James Han, a visitor to the store.
It’s hard for most people to imagine just how close the danger is to South Korea, and yet how distant and mysterious the isolated North Korean nation is to its southern neighbor.
“South Korea and North Korea are still at war right now,” Song said. “They never signed a peace treaty, you never know what’s going to happen. I guess most families here are worried about their families in South Korea, relatives and friends and families. If something goes wrong and there’s an immediate war they’re the first ones that are going to be affected.”
And though there is fear, there is still hope Kim Jong Il’s son Kim Jong Un, who will take the reigns of the country, might explore a peaceful reunification since he’s apparently had more exposure to Western culture than his father.
“I heard he likes NBA basketball,” song laughed. “Maybe because of that he’ll come over.”