Close But Yet So Far Away

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Spending time in the countryside of Cherwon was beautiful and a welcome change from urban surroundings. It was especially interesting because we were so close to the 38th parallel.  Cheorwon has a lot of farms that provide healthy food for the community, there are lots of green so that people can appreciate the beauty of nature even more. Of equal importance was visiting key historical events that occurred before and during the Korean War.  It made me realize how history impacts us in various ways.   Visiting the historical sites between Goseokjeon and Jiktang Falls was a good way to learn about the Korean Peninsula.  Listening to what our guides and people had to say was a good way to learn from another perspective.  On the bus ride, people wrote and shared poems about peace and reunification.  It was great hearing people’s ideas and passionate poems around peace and reunification.

Our first stop at Goeseokjeong was captivating because of its scenic nature.  On the way there, we got to see the statue of Im Kkeokjeong, a hero to many during the Joseon Dynasty in 1559.  The reason is because he helped people by robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, which was quite interesting and historically significant. Likewise, the Dopiansa Temple showed its prominent cultural attractions and how people still preserved it even after it suffered through many conflicts. That is to say people’s optimism rebuilt it years after it was burn down during the Korean War.

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One of the locations that drew my attention was the site of the Battle of White Horse. This area was very important because many of the fiercest battles in the Korean War took place over control of the strategic hilltop positions.  At a distance I could see North Korea: it was so close geographically yet so far away relationship-wise.   Next, we went to the Worker’s Party Headquarters. We could see the bullet marks on the building: scars from the war.  It was moving: This made think of how much people in Korea had to go through not only during the liberation of Japan but also during the Korean War.

Discussing the Cold War may cause a lot of controversy. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep in mind how nations around the world are still affected by it. When we think of North Korea, our perceptions are shaped by what we hear in the international media.  Although some of the information we receive may be true, it is important to realize that the media has different objectives, such as transmitting important information in a sensational manner.  It prevents us from accessing what is relevant.  In other words, the media itself might distract us from learning about what is truly important, such as the positive impact of reuniting both Koreas not only to Asia but also to other nations. Strangely enough, this somehow reminds me of Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.  Neil Postman points out that “most of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action” (Pg.68, The Peek-a-Boo World). One example was Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea.  The media painted Dennis Rodman’s visit to North in a sensational way. What the media reporting and we forget is how such actions were opportunities to improve relationships between both Koreas outside the realm of politics.  Dennis Rodman didn’t go to North Korea for politics; they went to “use basketball as a bridge for cultural exchange”, which is a good thing. (To check out Dennis Rodman’s CNN interview follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCj99LB0hPs, and for his Du Jour interview: http://dujour.com/culture/dennis-rodman-north-korea-kim-jong-un-interview/2/)

As we can see, there are different ways to improve relationships between communities and nations beyond just politics, especially nowadays when people can be involved in addressing issues of various aspects politically, economically and socially. In this regard, the International Strategy Center also has a role to play by allowing people to explore issues around the world and in the Korean Peninsula through its open lectures.

written by Mirian N'Passi Mateus Vanda[ref]Mirian recently graduated from Yongsan International School in Seoul, South Korea. In the fall she willbe attending Arts University Bournemouth in the United Kingdom.[/ref]