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  • Andrew Hsieh

AAMPLIFY Roundup: North Korea, Chinese American cannabis, and Justin Chon’s Gook

Every week, AAMPLIFY brings you the week in Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander news.

North Korea considering firing missiles into waters near Guam

A week of high-octane rhetoric from President Trump and North Korea, including a threat from President Trump to unleash “fire and fury the likes of which have never been seen before” against North Korea, eventually led to the North discussing the possibility of firing missiles at Guam on Tuesday, August 8.

However, on August 9, North Korea pulled back, saying it was considering a strike into the waters of Guam, rather than Guam proper. If North Korea followed through on this threat, it would be the first time that a North Korean missile would have landed so close to an American territory.

Military action against North Korea, said former presidential secretary for security strategy Cheon Seong-whun, might involve shooting down North Korean missiles, but nothing more than that.

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Chinese Americans protest opening of bilingual cannabis dispensary

Cannabis is still heavily stigmatized among Asian Americans and Pacific Islander populations, with only 58 percent of Asian Americans supporting cannabis legalization versus 64 percent of California voters. That’s why Dr. Floyd Huen, a 70-year-old Asian American who wants to open a cannabis dispensary in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, is facing protests from the heavily Chinese American community.

As the first partially Chinese-owned and bilingual dispensary in San Francisco, Dr. Huen’s dispensary would offer services in Cantonese and Mandarin and partner with traditional Chinese practitioners.

Dr. Huen sees it as an evolution of traditional Chinese medicine, which once espoused the use of cannabis, but protesters have already filed an appeal against the dispensary. “We’re going to win it,” said Dr. Huen, unfazed.

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Justin Chon’s film Gook to begin theatrical run

Based on the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Justin Chon’s 2017 Sundance NEXT Audience Award-winning film, Gook, was originally slated for the festival circuit. But the popularity of 12-year-old Simone Baker, who stars in Gook, has propelled Gook to a rolling limited release starting August 18, in Los Angeles.

This is Baker’s first lead role in film and television, and, she said, an important one to play.

“I thought it was good for me to learn about [the LA riots] because I need to learn the history of that and racial discrimination,” she said in an interview with NBC. “I didn’t know it was so intense. My mom told me all the things that happened in the riots.”

Gook focuses on the friendship between Kamilla (Baker) and two Korean American brothers who own a shoe store (Justin Chon and David So) during the riots, a contrast to the conflict between Korean Americans and Black Americans in 1992.

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Cambodian refugees find living through jewelry stores

Hundreds of Cambodian-owned jewelry stores dot Southern California, home to the largest population of Cambodians outside of Cambodia with 50,000 strong. For many of their owners, they’re extensions of their homes, such as the mining province of Pailin, which contains several gem mines. And when they fled the Khmer Rouge in 1975, the connections they made there made it possible to survive in the United States.

But despite some success, such as one Cambodian-owned jewelry store becoming the official jeweler of Miss America USA, it’s hard for many to break out of the business-- especially in America, where owning jewelry has become more of a luxury than a necessity.

“I’m not getting rich off this,” said jeweler Madi Thai. “Someone will break through someday. It just takes time.”

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Cook Islands languages celebrated with a call to preservation

In New Zealand, 62,000 people identify as Cook Islanders, people from the island country in the South Pacific. Over 90 percent of them are descended from the native Polynesian peoples of the islands, and share ancestral links with the Māori of New Zealand.

But the Cook Islands languages are still not as widely spoken as English. Which is why this week, Whitireia Polytech in Porirua, Cook Islands, held a range of events to celebrate the Cook Islands languages.

“Most grow up without the reo [Cook Island Māori],” said Jean Mitaera, who is on the committee for Cook Islands language week. “I think that’s an old colonial thing that English is the language of education and the language of employment.”

The best strategy, said Mitaera, is instruction that begins at home-- especially in New Zealand, where Cook Islanders are even more disconnected.

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What to check out this weekend

Want to kick off the weekend by catching up on AANHPI content? These highlights should have you covered.

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