As you can imagine, things have been a little tense here on the Korean peninsula. Being residents of South Korea and experiencing the national mourning that took place after the sinking of the South Korean war ship, the Cheonan, we genuinely feel the nation’s pain. Forty-six sailors and one rescue worker died when the ship was torpedoed and all of South Korea was in shock. Many wore black ribbons or pins to show their support for the grieving families. Outward signs of mourning were obvious, but many people also became worried.
When it was determined that the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, many of our students and co-teachers became anxious. Just this week, our students participated in a “war drill” to practice what they would do if the North attacked. Most people believe that war will not happen for a variety of reasons. First, the South will never attack the North for fear of economic repercussions. Not to mention the fact that South Korea wants nothing but peace and for the countries to come to an understanding. Many believe that the North would not attack because they know that allied forces would immediately come to the aid of the South. However, knowing what we know about North Korean thought patterns, “all out war” could be a real possibility.
The people of North Korea have no grasp of reality due to the limited access to world news and technology. Their government tells them, and they believe, that they are the happiest and best people in the world and that outside of their country, people are barely surviving. We’ve heard countless testimonies of North Korea defectees that escape to the South and realize that the South Korean economy is booming (as compared to their own) and the people are happy and thriving. They’ve always been told that South Koreans are starving and dig through trash to find food. Of course, none of this is true, but how would North Korean’s know this? They are not allowed to access the internet expect through a dozen or so pre-aprroved sites.
It’s not all gloomy, though. We’ve found some very comical aspects of living this close to the most reclusive nation in the world.
For starters, we find it hilarious that South Korea frequently sends “propaganda” across the boarder via flyer-filled balloons. This propaganda includes photos of South Koreans eating a lot of food and drinking alcohol and generally just being happy. They also send messages telling anyone who finds them that the North Korean government is lying and South Korea is a great place to live. They also blast similar messages from loud speakers stationed at the DMZ. (Just this week North Korea threatened to blow up the loud speakers if they weren’t turned off.)
Although American journalists are not usually allowed into the DPRK (North Korea) as Laura Ling and Euna Lee found out, British journalists and other nationalities are occasionally granted access. The staged theatrics that are set up for such entrances cannot be understated. It’s laughable that they put on these productions and expect the world to believe them. For example, they tell one journalist that they are completely self sufficient and do not need any outside help. Unfortunately for them, a U.N. provided tractor drives by at this exact time as one of the interviewees races to cover the U.N. seal that is branded on its side. In another instance the journalist is invited into a Korean home for a celebration. She is told that the man of the house is celebrating his 60th birthday and retirement. Forgetting his script, the man actually tells her that he is 59 years old, works at the factory every day and usually has noodles for lunch.
We can’t get enough of the stories we have heard and find them really interesting. If you do as well, check out some of the videos we’ve found below(click the picture to be taken to the page).