Koreans in metro talk significance of Winter Olympics

Posted at 6:58 PM, Feb 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-09 23:27:45-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While the opening ceremonies for the 2018 Winter Olympics brought celebration on Friday, the event brought a range of emotions for a Korean War survivor in the metro.

Insook Chang, an 85-year-old grandmother who lives in South Korea, traveled to Overland Park this week to see her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren.



On Friday night, Chang watched the Olympics spectacle alongside her family.

The games come more than 60 years after she saw the horrors of the Korean War.

“She was sleeping at night and heard really loud noises. It was a tank coming towards the city,” explained Insook’s daughter June Cho, who translated her mother’s words for 41 Action News. “For three months, she almost starved because the North Korean soldiers came and they took control of that area." 

Chang said after North Korean troops captured her father’s hometown, soldiers forced her to use her musical skills and play communist songs.

“Because she was able to play the piano, they forced her to teach the songs to the town people,” Cho explained. “(North Korean leader Kim Il Sung) came to town so she had to teach how to sing the song that praised him.”

After living through horrid conditions during the war, Chang said help finally came when U.S. troops arrived.

“When the U.S. Army came to help, that's when she ran out of that camp,” Cho explained.

Decades later, the Olympics have come to Chang’s home country.

After departing South Korea this week, she said there was a shared excitement with many people.

However, Chang continued to feel worried over the ongoing tension with North Korea.

On Friday, she told 41 Action News she felt troubled seeing the sister of Kim Jong Un a part of the opening ceremonies.

“As a person who went through Korean War, she's not all that happy,” Cho explained.

Despite the appearance, Chang felt a much a different emotion when seeing South Korean athletes march with North Korea during the Parade of Nations.

“Marching together is really meaningful for her,” Cho said. “She feels like she empathizes with North Koreans because she knows how hard and poor it was back then."

Moving forward, Chang and Cho hoped the Olympics could help bring South Korea closer together with North Korea.

“Even though we have completely different ideologies, through this event we can come together and root for each other,” Cho said.