From his Plymouth Meeting office, J. Joseph Kim is cautiously optimistic about what a handshake and a historic meeting will mean.
“This is a great start,” said Kim, who was born in South Korea and lived there for the first decade of his life.
Kim is now president and chief executive officer of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, an international company that does business in South Korea. He’s planning to travel there in two weeks for a previously scheduled trip that now comes in a new era - after the historic meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“You were cautiously optimistic and very excited - at the same time you’re like, what’s going to happen?” Kim said.
He remembers tensions between North and South even as a child.
“When I was growing up it was full of propaganda,” he said, remembering messaging state that “North Korea was the great evil, it’s the communism, oppression of the people.”
Kim says he immigrated to the U.S. at age 11 with his mother, bringing two bags and $300 and knowing very little English.
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“I think I knew how to say ‘thank you’ and ‘hi,'" he said.
He says his success story here “could only happen in America.”
Kim still has relatives in South Korea, as well as business associates, and worried as tensions escalated in a war of words between President Trump and the North Korean leader. The meeting, he says, hasn’t alleviated all his concerns, but is just the beginning.
Kim says he’d like to now see families separated by the Korean war reunited, and the remains of American soldiers returned. He also believes that sometime in his lifetime, he will see a reunified Korea.
For now, the father of three plans to talk to his children about the developments that happened in Singapore, telling them “the Korean peninsula is a lot … safer than it was yesterday and there’s potential to improve even further.”