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Korean Community Leader in Iowa Reacts to Peace Talks

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Korean American people in Des Moines are reacting to the stunning images coming out of North and South Korea.

“When I got home I almost had to rub my eyes and make sure that this is really what I was seeing,” said Ben Jung.

After years of authoritative rule, threats, taunts, and missile tests, seeing leaders from North and South Korea embrace was a sight some thought they would never see.

“If you just rewind a year ago, you would not have thought that this was even remotely possible. I think people in the south were, at that time, considering a very serious threat of something breaking out on the peninsula, so it's a very quick change, a very quick turnaround,” said Jung.

Jung is the President of the Korean Cultural Connection of Iowa. He says if the two sides do make peace, they would be burying the hatchet on a nearly 70-year conflict--something he's still holding some skepticism about.

“Unification would be the ultimate goal for Koreans. However, getting there from where we are today is still a vast space to cover,” he said.

Jung says with both sides saying they're committed to denuclearization, one of the main hurdles would be convincing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to give up the power his family has held since the end of the war.

“You would think that perhaps in a democratic society that there wouldn't be much space for him to continue in any kind of role or position of government,” said Jung.

Jung's grandmother was in North Korea when the war broke out, but was able to make it south. Still, Jung currently has uncles in North Korea who he's never met. He hopes one day he and his father may meet them.

“I can only imagine what that could be like...but I think, dad, and...we're all kind of skeptical that chance would even be able to take place,” said Jung.

Jung says another challenge of reunification would be assimilating the technologically-advanced south with a northern population where something like the internet is restricted to a select few.