The Two Koreas

Peninsular Korea is currently in a Cold War. Is reunification possible? The Korean history we were introduced to began in the first century. The unique language and all the music, dance and cultural artifacts and art we have witnessed belongs to all Koreans. Division of the Korean Penninsula did not occur until 1948 when the South Korean government was established in August and the North Korean government established in September of the same year –  post WW2 and the Japanese Colonial period in Korea.

The two Koreas went to war when the first leaders of each of the countries wanted to unite Korea under one leader. A cease fire was declared in 1953 after a bloody three year war; the war has never been ended and they have been living in this “cease fire” state ever since. We watched the movie, JSA, Joint Security Area) which depicts a fictitious story of men from North and South Korea who secretly become friends at the extremely sensitive 38th parallel where the division of the two Korea’s was demarcated back in 1945. It is worth watching to consider the human element of the division of Korea into two Korea’s.

We also heard from a North Korean defector regarding his escape from North Korea and his new life here in South Korea. Life under dictator Kim is tightly controlled, though Korean dramas seem to be easily smuggled into the country. When we watched the film “On the Border”, it became abundantly clear that defectors often have to escape separately from family members and the hope of reuniting with family members may never be realized. One Korean I spoke to describes North Korea as living in hell. You can understand the desire to escape and also feel the anguish of separation from loved ones.

On our field trip today we visited an infiltration tunnel that was discovered in 1975. It’s size and length suggest that 2,000 soldiers per hour would have been able to cross from North to South Korea. Five of them in total have been discovered. Today, tourists can visit some of them as well as the JSA in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). The name belies the truth that this buffer zone on either side of the MDL ( Militry Demarcation Line) is heavily guarded by a million North Korean and another million South Korean’s on either side of the MDL. Within this no-man’s land, completely uninhabitable by humans, is an involuntary park, teeming with life and rare and endangered species. Eleven of the 15 species of cranes in the world reportedly spend time in this park including the White Crane and the Red-Crowned Crane.

Here is a short video I created from a couple of video clips taken when we visited Infiltration Tunnel Number 2.

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