Korean-Americans in Tampa Bay worry about friends, family in homeland

Local Korean reaction

Tampa, FL -- As tensions mount on the Korean peninsula, there is no shortage of worry in Tampa Bay.

Head to parts of the region, pick up a newspaper to check the latest headlines, and you might swear you're in Seoul, South Korea. The whole paper, printed in the Korean language.

There are also storefront signs, advertisements, and entire supermarkets – all indications of Korea's growing cultural influence in Tampa Bay. 

The region is home to a sizable population. 

 “I think around 10,000 people are here,” said Pil Won Lee who owns “Soul of Korea” restaurant on 56th Street in Tampa.

Pil has been watching the rising tension on a TV located in the corner of his restaurant, blaring a Korean news channel he’s able to pick up on cable.

He watches the news reports of missiles, a U.S. aircraft carrier group approaching the area.

Pil thinks the threat of another escalation is higher now, as the Trump administration changes what it calls a failed policy of patience with North Korea.

He also says he's worried that the North's leader, Kim Jong Un, might just attack the South. 

“He's crazy. So, I think he will try for that,” said Pil.

Still, some Korean-Americans living here, people like Adrian Nagy, say they've been in contact with family members on the Korean Peninsula including her younger brother and 82-year-old mother.

Frankly, she says, we seem more concerned about it here than they are there.

“Since 2012, this is the fifth time, so nothing's happened,” her brother told her, “So, calm down,” he said.

That might be easier said than done.

Koreans in the Bay Area hope it is just another round of high stakes politics, but with 5,500 miles between Asan Bay, Korea and Tampa Bay, Florida, there's little they can do but nervously watch. 

“Still, we are Korean. Even though we are here,” said Nagy. “But we are Korean and we're concerned about our family and friends in Korea.”

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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