The road that we walk together

Funny how things change. After transferring to SIS from a Korean school in sixth grade, even some of the most deeply rooted “Korean” issues – reunification, the possibility of a nuclear war, Korea’s political relationship with the rest of the world, etc – suddenly seemed to have disappeared around the corner. SIS is a strange place (apart from the fact that we call ourselves “international” when 99% of us are ethnically Korean) in that, especially for the students, it’s like a tiny world on its own. SISers are largely ignorant of the myriad of happenings outside school walls, and Koreans are generally oblivious of the school’s very existence. Having spent the past seven years of my life in such an environment, I have – perhaps unintentionally, unwillingly – let the reality pass by, significantly diminished in urgency and gravity.

The PBS documentary Field Trip to the DMZ helped me remember some of the things that, as a Korean, I shouldn’t have forgotten, the North-South relationship in particular.

To be honest, though, I can’t say that I’m a hundred percent for an immediate reunification, as those in the documentary were. And my opinion has changed very little since when I was a fourth grader back at my old school, where I had to respond to an essay contest prompt regarding reunification. I remember how all of my classmates gushed their hearts out about our social responsibility to end the tragedy that separates loved ones from one another. The deportees and the instructors at the school in the documentary, likewise, want reunification to take place as soon as possible. But the reality of the issue is hardly as simple as that; just as it took years and years of political planning to bring down the Berlin Wall, ridding the Korean peninsula of the DMZ is going to be a giant hurdle. Reuniting families is good, but it’s not going to solve the fundamental problems that have so far kept Koreans divided. Even if we miraculously reunite in the near future, the obvious cultural, philosophical and religious differences are going to make “assimilation” a nationwide issue. There are economic issues to be considered as well; will the South Korean economy be strong enough to take care of the severely crippled North Korean economy while feeding its starving population? Meanwhile, will the “brainwashed” North Koreans be able to accept the South’s democratic system? What will happen if they don’t or can’t?

Usually I like to be an optimist. For one, it makes the world look a shade prettier. However, I can’t agree that the North-South issue is something that can be dealt with naive ideals and simple, personal wishes.

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~ by stephanieec on April 28, 2009.

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