San Antonio Express-News
By Robin Ewing
The existence of two Koreas is both a complex political conundrum as well as an emotional tug-of-war for the Korean people. It is estimated that 10 million people were separated from their families when Korea was divided, first at the end of WWII and the again after the Korean War.
Many older Koreans have received no word from brothers, sisters, sons and daughters for more than 50 years. Younger Koreans have grown up with uncles, aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers they have never met, cousins that may or may not exist.
Others have been forced to acknowledge without really knowing the deaths of parents and other relatives who would be too old to still be alive.
Much like Americas who lived through the American Civil War, Koreans live in a world where their biggest enemy can be their most beloved, yet estranged, family member.
But surprisingly, South Korea’s media coverage of North Korea can be fairly soft. I once saw an article refer to Kim Jong Il as a teletubby.
I asked a middle-aged Korean friend, a math teacher, why North Korea drew such little public reproach in the South. He said, “The issue between North Korea and South Korea is a family issue.”
This paradox of sharing a small peninsula with both family and foe crops up everywhere, in politics, movies and books, adding a deeper dimension to all things Korean: a Hatfield and McCoy kind of situation if they had been related.
If you want to deepen your understanding of the situation, here’s my list of recommend movies and books before traveling to the DMZ.
South Korean movies:
“Taeguki: The Brotherhood of War”
Readings on Korea:
“North Korea Under Communism: Report of an Envoy to Paradise” by Erik Cornell
“The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History” by Dan Oberdorfer
“The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag” by Kang Chol-Hwan
“In North Korea: An American Travels Through an Imprisoned Nation” by Nanchu and Xing Hang
“Echoes of the White Giraffe” by Sook Nyul-Choi
“Remembering Korea 1950” by H.K. Shin
“Voices from the Korean War: Personal Stories of American, Korean and Chinese Soliders” by Richard Peters and Xiaobing Li