>Activists frequently set up shop in the center of Seoul’s main shopping district to decry the horrible human rights abuses perpetrated by a repressive regime against its seemingly peaceful citizens. Extrajudicial killings and wanton torture are all palpable in graphic colour photographs posted next to petitions urging help. Yet the call to action is not to fight Kim Jong-il and his henchmen, but the Chinese authorities for their persecution of Falun Gong practitioners!
Living here in the wealthy suburb of a relatively rich country – surrounded by the apex of consumer goods consumption – it is easy to lose sight of the fact that mere kilometers away lies one of the worst totalitarian dictatorships left on the planet. Movies like Children of the Secret State offer truly depressing portraits of what life is like for rural North Koreans not lucky enough to be part of the military cadre, yet the mainstream media in the South seem uninterested in publishing much more than the most recent diplomatic brinkmanship in the cat-and-mouse nuclear talks. Understandably, South Korean news agencies do not want to inflame tensions on the peninsula by sending in undercover reporters.
However, the media’s lens is tightly focused above the 38th parallel and as a result a clear lack of open dialogue and reflection exists in this country with regards to the North Korean question. How does President Lee Myung Bak’s hardline policy of engagement resonate with his compatriots? How do people here feel about reunification?
Funny you should ask, because this and many more questions will be answered in a new weekly post called “The Great Blight North.” These posts will aim to tell interesting stories and gauge the everyday citizen’s opinions on the North.
This week starts off with an short interview of Ginger, a thirty-something English recruiter who lives in Busan.
WaP: What is your earliest memory of North Korea or its people?
G: We were taught in elementary school that the communists are bad and I didn’t realize that it wasn’t a fair education for a long time.
WaP: Do you live in fear of the North attacking?
G: No, I don’t live in fear. But there were times that I got nervous but I don’t think they will attack without any warning.
WaP: Do you want re-unification?
G: Re-unification is ideal thing to happen but it’s not as ideal as it sounds I think. I’m hoping that we can go there just like we travel to other countries and all the divided families can meet their families in North freely.
WaP: How do you feel about the presence of American troops on the peninsula?
G: Well, I think it’s a necessary evil because we don’t spend as much money for military.
WaP: Is the “Sunshine Policy” the right way to engage North Korea?
G: I can’t say it’s right way but I like it better than Lee Myung Bak’s way.