baseball, poetry, and kim chi

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The North

North Korea is very much an issue right now. Since I live in Seoul, they could end up being very much my issue. Because I’ve thought about the North and the South and the US a bit lately, I’d like to give this little dust up some face time in the corn.

At 7a, four days a week, I teach postgraduate students. These are the folks that have already been through the 9 levels of the FLI program. Their English is far from perfect, but it is pretty good, sometimes there is confusion over prepositions, but rarely is there any confusion over intent or content. At the beginning of the semester we decided to get our reading material from newspapers. The students could choose the paper, so long as it was in English. A few weeks back an article about North Korea was brought in. It had to do with the possibility that the reactor which had stopped was stopped so that material necessary for The Bomb could be extracted. Bombs are bad; we in the South don’t want the North to have the bomb, right? Wrong. Well, there was no consensus, but one young woman called the North “heroic”. They were the only country in the world that was standing up to the USA, she said. An older woman, in her early 50s, couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She said that no one in her generation would say that about the North. That the North was a repressive and disgusting government.

If you look at polls you see that the older generation is very supportive of the United States and its role in South Korea. Whereas the younger generation is almost completely against American policy on the peninsula. Earlier this semester I attended an Anti-American (USA) rally on the Yonsei campus. It was on the campus, and I was walking home, so I stopped in to see what was up. just stayed out of everyone’s way and watched. Lots of music, lots of play war, lots of chants, but I couldn’t understand a thing that was said (no surprise. It was in Korean. I have about 20 words.). I never felt threatened, it just seemed like kids having fun. So there are plenty of Anti-American (and, for the most part, foreigners are treated well; it is the government that the protestors are angry with) protests, but I haven’t seen any Anti-North Korean protests (by the youth). I am sure they exist, I just haven’t seen any. On numerous occasions I’ve seen banners with the Statue of Liberty decked out in all her imperialistic glory (See statue of liberty with M-16, SL with missiles in her crown, Money in her teeth, etc), and the American flag in all kinds of guises (See swastikas for stars, Guns for stars, red stripes dripping blood), but I have yet to see anything like this directed toward the North.

So what is going on here? I don’t have any conclusions, but I do have a few ideas. Korea has been a pawn in world politics for, god, I’d don’t know, lets just put it at a few hundred years. Recently, it was a Japanese colony. It has never been (until now) a world player. The world just played on it. Many in the South still feel this way. They feel that they are at the mercy of these great big powers, that their government acquiesces to American, Japanese, and Chinese demand, and in the end, they are just a small country. And they are smaller bc of this line drawn a few kilometers north of Seoul. Korea should be united. Can’t tell you how many times I have heard that. And I agree. Korea should be united, but how? There isn’t much of a response to this. No one is quite sure how, but at least in the younger generation, there is certainty that the reason why they are not united now is bc of the USA. So although it is the North that is now unwilling to rule out a preemptive strike, and this strike would not be at the USA, but at the people of Seoul, the US still comes out the bad guy. Kim Jung Il is just doing what he has to do. This is all GW’s fault. The fact that the North, with all her starvation and repression, and now her threat to the South, could be considered “heroic”, gives me pause, and makes me wonder what it is that we are looking at. Are we looking at the same thing?

I have also been told, by Korean friends, that many in the South are not upset about the North getting The Bomb bc when unification comes, Korea will be a world power, will finally be able to defend its own.


Blogger Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...

Sounds absolutely crazy. North thinks this, South thinks that, young people burn this, old people don't. Where are you in all this? How soon before you start a revolution or move to Thailand?

3:41 AM

Blogger JWG said...

Easy life. the money is coming. one more year in korea. on-line teaching. Thailand. Dont know after that.

no matter how it sounds, we dont take the north too seriously. just cant see them pulling that stunt. But if they do... hopefully I will be gone by then

8:08 PM


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