Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What Little I Know About North Korea

I've found that the Western world seems to be more interested in North Korea than anyone else.

Before we came to Korea, many of our friends and family were very concerned about our safety in Korea. They heard news reports about N. K. testing missiles and making threats. To be honest, at one point, I kind of put the whole idea aside. I figured we can go anywhere in the world, why should we go to the one place that is in a tense spotlight right now? My wise husband, Jeremy, suggested we do a little more research. We did, and upon reading S. Korean publications, blogs, and media outlets we were shocked to see that there was little conversation about North Korea. They weren't really worried at all.

I remember reading one blogger who said, "The Western media gets really excited about North Korea, but the rest of us just shrug our shoulders at Kim Jong Un's latest tantrum." I felt a little safer after reading about N.K. from another angle.

However, that doesn't mean that N.K. is out of the Korean media entirely. In fact, just last week reports came out of N.K. that Kim Jong Un publicly executed 80 people for owning Bibles and watching South Korean TV shows.

When I ask my Korean friends about North Korea, they don't have very much to say. Granted, I have not spoken to every Korean person, but here's what I've found among those that I know. I asked them, "Did you hear about these recent executions?"

Some had. Some had not.

"That's common," said one friend. "It's unfortunate, but it's common."

And then my question, "Well, why don't we do something."

"Because they are our family, our race. I think many people are afraid to meet their own across the battle lines."

From what very little I understand about the split that brought us to North and South Korea, it was a dispute over management style. The North wanted communism. The South wanted democracy. Families were torn apart and some have not seen each other for sixty years.

I suppose from the outside everything is black and white. It's easy for me as a foreigner to have an opinion. To have a solution to this problem. But it's different if you're Korean. It's different if it's your family and your country.

If you're curious to read a first-hand account of a North Korean defector (the only one who has ever escaped a prison camp and survived), check out Escape from Camp Fourteen.


Anonymous said...

A minor correction: This book is about the only person to successfully escape from a North Korean prison camp. A few hundred thousand people have escaped the country itself.

Heather said...

Thanks Anonymous!