Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Me, Myself, and I

Whether something happens to America or something happens to South Korea, I can’t help but worry for both of them. My true home resides in America but the blood which runs through my veins are Korean. I remember what important event made me who I am today…

I walk into my first day of Kindergarten and take a seat on the floor near the corner, crisscross. Many children my age scream and laugh among each other in a foreign language I can’t quite grasp. My older brother and sister once tried to teach me this language, but I never followed through. Although my birth took place in Abington, my life only revolved around the Korean society in America.  I eat Korean food, celebrate Korean holidays, and practically live Korea because I go every year for more than 2 months, so I can’t help but wonder why I need to learn a new language; I am Korean. A tall, blonde lady smiles down at me and escorts me to a colorful seat.  When seated, I look around the rainbow colored room in nervousness and more children pour in. I’m scared but at the same time, sort of excited. Finally, her mouth starts speaking in an enthusiastic way, but the only words I understand are hello and welcome. Later on, I try something called a hot dog and my teacher wipes ketchup from my face. We are full of smiles and laughter. Over the course of the year, we communicate by hand signals and small talk. At first, culture shock consumed me, but learning a new language as well as a new culture amazed me. When I went to South Korea, I felt like I belonged but when I came back to America, I felt more comfortable. Split in between two countries, my head started asking questions. As I grew up between the clashing countries, problems arose and left me hanging. All in all, my identity confused me. But I now realize I am just me. I am part of two different cultures and part of two different societies. I am proud to call myself a Korean-American.

The Beginning and the End

War tends to put people on the edge of their seat, but not in Korea. Ever since the time of the Neolithic period in the Korean Peninsula, wars existed. Even when the Shilla dominated all competing tribes and unified the peninsular region in 676 AD, hundreds of civil war later broke out later on. All in all, peace in Korea became rare to see. Later on, the Japanese occupied Korea so they could use the country as a bridge to Manchuria, China. When World War II shimmered down, the Soviet Union and United States forces entered Korea to fight off the Japanese.  After a ‘good’ fight, the Japanese forces surrendered on September 9, 1945.  They decided that Korea should be split into two halves (North Korea and South Korea) but the Koreans, however, wanted to unite into one country which ultimately led to another war, the Korean War. North Korea decided force must be used to unite the two countries. Using advanced Soviet weapons, North Korea surprised South Korea by unfairly striking before dawn on June the 25th, 1950. The war continued to escalate as the United States came to help South Korea when things weren’t looking good. China then entered the war on October 25, 1950. After much fighting and trading of territories, there was a stalemate between 1951 and 1953. Eventually, a cease fire issued on July 27, 1953 temporarily settled the two Koreas, but technically, the war is not over. They are still under an armistice today and not a peace treaty.

Whether people long for more blood through wars or unification, one thing is for sure, something must happen to permanently settle the two brother countries of Korea. On Saturdays in Korean school, I learned many songs of unification that elders sing today. Despite the fact North Koreans attack South Koreans, some elders who lived during the occupation of Japan, believe unification is a must. On the other side, I learned about many historical battles Korea went through over the 5000 year period and how some people believe another battle for Korea is nothing so we should continue the war.

I once believed unification could answer all the problems. My grandfather escaped from North Korea during the Korean War and before he passed away couple of years ago, he shared many stories about his life to me. He once told me about his older brother, Duck Hee Yi and how he died. When his family lived in North Korea at that time, the North Korean government started forcing teenage boys to aid in the Korean War. His father decided to protect his two sons and escaped on a dangerous path. The family left everything behind to survive. When they somehow reached the South, they believed they found a safe haven, but the unavoidable truth swept by them.  Duck Hee Yi looked strong and old enough to aid during the war so the South Korean 
government drafted him. Forced to fight against his own friends and family in the war, he died.

After hearing the story, unification sounded like the best choice, but the video clips of the brain washed North Koreans make me question my choice. Different voices echo throughout Korea and like me, nobody knows which answers correct.

The Voice of the People

After decades of peace inside a war, the two brother countries of Korea continue their battles once more. Unfortunate incidents such as the bombing on the South Korean island, Yeong Pyeong and a North Korean torpedo attacking the peaceful southern warship Cheonam, everyone’s on the edge of their seat.   

During the time of the first attacks at Cheonam, my great-uncle, Cho Kang Min who is a citizen of Korea, powerfully spoke out about his opinions when we met back in March. He stated, “This is unforgivable! Those crazy people up there have done stupid things and they should be punished. All the men of South Korea are ready for war since we all required to go the army. So I believe that if we go to war, it will solve everything. Don’t you agree? The United States has our back in all that we do so there is no need to be afraid of the commies.” His strong opinions echoed the voice of many other Koreans. After the bombing of Yeong Pyeong, South Korean war and marine veterans held an anti-North Korea Rally in the busy streets of South Korea’s capital, Seoul on Nov. 20, 2010. As they torched a North Korean flag, one the men shouted on SBS 10’ NEWS, “We have tolerated this long enough. Action should be made. We are ready to be called back into the military if necessary.” The boiling bloods of the South still rage on, however many other opinions exists as well.

As the Cheonam investigation took place, the only clips airing on TV consisted of the memorial service for the 46 innocently murdered sailors on the attacked ship. Due the fact our family receives Korean TV; we couldn’t help but shed a tear as we watched. My mother wept, “I don’t know what to say to this. If those mindless, brain-washed northern communist are the ones behind this, they need to be punished now but we can have more of our boys dying. If we continue the war, there will be more useless bloodshed. This time 46 lives, but next it could be hundreds of thousands. We can’t afford to lose lives!” What many people forget during a war always turns out to be the lives of victims who fall as they fight. Sure they get the heroic service, but it seems like they are forgotten as time continues.

Due to the dirty games the North plays, many lives die for no reason. “When will this end?” I asked myself while watching the bombing on the television back then. The event hit me like it did for the 9.11 attacks, but on a much smaller scale. I couldn’t help but feel upset. Different opinions echo throughout Korea, but over 80% of South Korea believe the situation with the North needs to settle. They don’t know how or when but they believe ‘peace’ can’t last forever between the Koreas.   

Cold Hard Facts

Two whole months crept by since  the North Korean bombing on the South Korean island, Yeon Pyoeng, but the boiling bloods of the south haven’t died down yet. The anger between the two brother countries still rage on and the ‘technically not ended’ Korean war goes on today.

 It began with an attack on Mar. 26, 2010. After 57 years of semi-peace between the two sides, the North attacked the Cheonam naval ship. Like the Montague’s and the Capulet’s, passions of hatred burned in the souls of each country. The torpedo killed 46 killed innocent South Korean sailors and sunk the ship. Shocked feelings swept the southern nation and only one question echoed in the mouths of the people. “What just happened?” Unfairly murdered, funeral services occupied Korean television and other news sources for many days, but what reached headlines everyday involved North Korea and their denying lies. The fragments of the shot torpedo traced back to the North, but till this day, they reject the accusation. Everybody knows the ‘Great and Beloved’ Kim Jong-il pulled the strings, but what does the spoiled child receive? Nothing. Not even a time-out.

Let’s go back to the recent bombing at Yeon Pyeong on Nov.  23, 2010. This incident happened due to the fact the North longed for attention. It all started when the south preformed simple military exercises. They were warned by the north not to continue, but it continued on. Using this as an excuse, they bombed an island off the Korean shore; killing two South Korean troops and injuring 15. Residents evacuated the island at once, but the terrifying boom sound echoed in the ears of all when they landed on the mainland. “Unforgettable and unforgivable,” yelled Park Jun ho on SBS 10’ NEWS. Victim of the bombing, he ranted with sorrow. He spoke out on the unfairness between the two Koreans and everybody agreed. Without hesitation, U.S battle ships disembarked toward the Korean sea and arrived to aid South Korea at all cost. This time, a ‘time out’ did happen but the North achieved their goal; attention. Showing the world their abilities with their bombs, the spoiled child finally received attention he longed for.
Courtesy of Wikipedia
Currently, North Korea’s nuclear bombs threaten the safety of South Korea so both the South and North agreed to hold defense talks with each other. The first dialogue between the Korean indicate the first talks since the deadly North Korean artillery attack on the South Korean  island, Yeong Pyeong in November. According to the South Korea Unification Ministry, the North proposed such talks, but South Korean President Lee Myung-bak feels reluctant. During an interview, he stated he feels as though the North appeared to be following an old strategy of provoking its neighbors and then requesting aid. Due to the fact they live in severe poor conditions, the North try to ask for aid all the time. The relationship between North Korea and South Korea remain sour and full of hostility, but the world hopes an important event to happen. Almost at the brink of World War III, many wish the results from the high-level talks in the foreseeable future will prosper both Koreas. But what I wish for consists of the punishment of the North and the peace of the South.

Since July 27, 1953, the day the armistice calmed the bloody battle field, war lingered on the back of everybody’s mind. A once united Korea, is now separated by the Korean Demilitarized zone. The future unknown, but one thing is certain; a war doesn’t last forever.