Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Trains to reunification

Last week, two trains left from North and South Korea, crossing the DMZ to the other side. I thought it was nice that the two sides could interact with one another in such a way, but can such actions truly lead to reconciliation? I am not sure. For instance, is South Korea really willing to take on the economic burden of a reunification? Also, with such stark contrasts between the two forms of government, how can they possibly come to an agreement? With the time getting longer and longer between the separation, are two, increasingly different, cultures able to suddenly come together as one.
Still, these stories of contact between citizens and family members seem to be happening fairly often within the past couple of years, and it is apparent that many Koreans would like to see it continue. Indeed, who wouldn't like to see an close family member that hasn't been seen for years? But the question becomes, in a few decades when the close family ties wear off, will these sentiments towards reconciliation remain? While visiting Korea, I noticed a definite split between the younger and older generations in regards to reunification. This might have been unique to my own experience, but it does make sense the older generations would have much closer ties to their family up north than the younger generations. No matter how the situation is looked at though, beyond the much publicized events such as that in the mentioned article, it seems that many tough decisions must be made on both sides before a realistic reunification solution can even be considered.


Christina Sin said...

The comment you made about how the older and younger generations having different views on reunification is so true. Although I would like reunification I know that a lot of my peers do not view North and South Korea as one country and one people like the older generations do. Perhaps it is because there are actual family members of the older generations in North Korea, but the difference is interesting to note.

Min said...

I actually read about this story from a variety of newspapers in Korea and I cannot help but notice the difference in the tone of voice from the Korean media to that of CNN – though I assumed the person who wrote the CNN article is probably Korean. What I mean by the difference in tone is that, from a Korean’s perspective, such achievement of this activation of a railway between the North and South is regarded as a diplomatic success rather than a “step towards reunification” though certainly there were some idealistic newspapers who talked about it, but in reality we all know that this is just another “thing” to which North Korea agreed after nearly a decade of talks. I’ve heard about this “stopped-ended railroad and the sad reality of the division of our families” since I was in primary school. There had been ads in the media and talks between the two countries; I remember that at one point they had agreed but the whole project was blown off track the day before the actual event. I think it is safe to say the majority of the Koreans (meaning South Koreans) don’t really believe or count on this event to be a milestone in the reunification of the Korean peninsula.

Regarding how young Koreans’ feel about the reunification, as a “young” Korean student, I’m about hundred-and-two percent with you on the view that many Koreans have lost that bond or even thoughts that North Koreans are “Koreans like me” or the view that they are “like us”. From personal experience, it is so hard to understand what North Koreans are saying when they appear in the media (mostly documentaries). Like you said, through 50 years of being apart we’ve developed and speak with different dialects as well as use a different vocabulary so I wouldn’t even have the slightest clue what it means. Needless to say, no one can deny the pains and sufferings in the families of those who had to be separated and it would be great to see them united again but in reality, just like you said, many have died and we are definitely loosing the chance of reunifying those who have been separated. I mean if reunification had taken place in the 60s – a decade after the Korean War and especially when the South Korean economic development was taking off, it would have been great (I mean the perspective of “Korea” would have been very different) but with so much cultural, language, philosophical (the cult of Kim-IlSungism) and the differences after half of century, I’m with you on the fact that two trains is just another grain of sand in a desert.