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There aren’t any T-shirts, banners, or posters of America’s first African-American president here in Seoul like there are on the streets of Harlem. South Koreans rarely get excited about the inauguration of their own president let alone another country’s.
But, people seem to have left behind all their disgruntlement and the anger they had with the U.S. last year. They appear to be genuinely happy for the new president and were all quite willing to share their own short messages to President Obama. Here’s what some of them had to say as they began their day.
First came those who will probably add some weight to President Obama’s shoulders on economic issues:
“Please help our country a lot economically,” office worker Hwang Kui-suk, said as she rushed by on her way to work.
“Well, I’ve got a lot of expectations. The U.S. economy has a lot to do with us, so, reviving the economy would be most important, don’t you think?” said 47-year-old Sim Sang-jun with a chuckle as he opened the doors of his shop.
“America is at the center of the world economy, so I hope he can help revive the global economy,” Kim Kye-hwon, a university student said, after carefully thinking out his words.
There was the more political crowd:
“Eh, well, just like President Bush did, I hope President Obama shows consistency and follows the same policies towards North Korea,” said Lee Man-eui, 62.
“Please end the Iraq war,” Kim Nung-cool, an 18-year-old student, said bluntly with no delay in her response.
And finally, there were those who just wanted to congratulate the new president:
“You know the term "black power"? I hope he does well with that kind of energy and a new image,” said Kang Sang-cheon, a university student.
“He’s the first black president in U.S. history, and all human beings are equal in the world, right? So everyone has strong expectations. All Koreans here are looking forward, too. He spoke in his own way about reform and change, so we’re all looking forward to what he’s going to do,” said 72-year-old Kwon Tai-souk.