Local Korean community nervous as tension rises between North and South

The rising tension in Korea hits close to home for the Korean community in the La Crosse area.

Members said they’ve felt much more nervous for the past few weeks in light of what’s happening in their home country.

These days Young Joon Jeon keeps his phone extra close.

“Just try to keep contact with them and text them,” Jeon said about his family. “If they don’t answer, it’s kind of nervous for me.”

He is an international student studying at UW-La Crosse.

His parents and older brother live near Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

With rising tension between his home country and its neighbor to the north, he said finding comfort while thousands of miles away from family is not easy.

“They keep trying to comfort me,” said Jeon. “They are just trying to tell me that there’s not going to be war, and if there’s war, we’ll try to figure it out and tell you first.”

“Usually I call them once a week, but these days it’s two times or sometimes three times a week,” said Kyoung Hoon Yang, an associate professor at UW-L.

Yang also has family in South Korea.

His parents and siblings still live there. His daughter also just recently took a job there.

“I just pray and call them, and I just follow the news, what is new,” said Yang.

With recent events, he now pays even closer attention to what American journalists and Korean news outlets are saying.


He said while threats from the North aren’t unusual, this time it may be different.

“The previous leader Kim Jong Il, he was old and had experience, but Kim Jong Un is inexperienced and young, and he act recklessly and he try to show off,” said Yang. “That’s what we’re worrying about.”

For now all Yang and Jeon can do is wait, and while the future between the two sides seems uncertain, both said they haven’t given up on the idea of peace and a united country just yet.

“I hope,” said Yang. “That’s what I want, but I don’t know.”

“I want to be one, I want to be all together, but it’s hard to say that they’re going to get together in the future,” said Jeon.

Both said while they’re hopeful for peace in the future, one of their concerns is the state of the Korean economy and what it might take to re-build North Korea if the two sides one day reunite.

Yang and Jeon not only have family in South Korea, they said they also have relatives in North Korea whom they’ve never had the chance to meet because of the conflict between the two sides.