Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Quiet Concern from the South

Last week I was talking with Kate, a Korean friend who works at Kosin, about the death of Kim Il-Sung.

“I heard it on the radio and I thought it was a joke or something,” she said, laughing a little. “I thought it was wrong, or it was a lie from the North Koreans who were messing with us for some reason. Then I found out it was real.”

You can imagine my skepticism and surprise a couple days later when my friend said, “I have big news. Kim Jong Il is dead.”
“You’re joking, right?”
“I am not.”
“Where’d you hear this?”
“CNN, and the BBC.”

An hour later.

“You were joking about the Kim Jong Il thing, right?”
“No! He’s really dead!”

I finally accepted the Dear Leader’s death and texted a few friends to see if they’d found out and what their reactions were. Some hadn’t heard yet and most others are at least a little worried about peace. The reports say that Kim Jong Il’s successor Kim Jong Un is unpredictable, and I heard one Korean woman describe him as “cruel” (despite the difficulty in pronouncing a word with both an r and an l). According to reports, it was Kim Jong Un and not his father who ordered the attack on the island of Yeonpyeong which resulted in the deaths of two marines and two civilians.

The on-the-ground feeling here is one of quiet concern. The South Koreans are a subtle people and, what’s more, have been under threat from their Northern counterparts for more than half a century, so it’s untenable to expect an overt reaction.[1] Military personnel have obviously been called to work and the people I’ve talked to are praying for peace. A vast majority of South Koreans want reunification, but they are worried about losing lives and skeptical that so much change could happen in their lifetimes.

I’m no good at reporting and anyway there’s quite a flurry of articles on this subject anyway, so I’ll let you do the big-scale reading on your own. If you want a more interesting and creative approach that will give you the same information, I recommend my friend’s open letter to Kim Jong-Il on his blog: http://the37thparallel.wordpress.com/

Have a good day! Stay dictator-free!

[1] It is interesting to compare the American reaction—the facebook statuses and the wild texts we ex-pats have been sending back and forth—to the Korean one.

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