22. Field trip to the DMZ

This post refers to the video about a 20-year old North Korean refugee.

The “Koreas” are the only nations who are officially “divided.” As a student who lives in one of the Koreas, specifically the South, I often experience some quirky yet disturbing situations regarding this issue about Korea being divided. For instance, when I went to a summer camp in one of the schools in California, after I introduced myself saying I am from Korea, about three other students (Americans) asked simultaneously asked, “which one?”

As I encounter these circumstances, I unconsciously ask myself over and over again, ‘what is the difference?’

According to the video, there are about

15,000 North Korean defectors who have made it to South Korea…

How are these “defectors” doing in the South? Well the most obvious difference between North and South Korea is the government and the amount of freedom each individual obtains. North Korea is known for its one of the most stringent Communism,  while South Korea is exponentially developing both economically and culturally.

Ergo, one of the biggest problems that the North Korean refugees face is the culture shock.

They experience severe culture shock transitioning from one of the world’s most isolated Communist states to one of the most technologically and economically advanced societies.

South Korea nowadays is full of Western stores, restaurants, and cultures. For example, Apku-Jeong is the center of Westernized Korea.

Apku Rodeo Street

Apku Rodeo Street

Now look at the North Koreans’ daily lives.

These differences of environment inexorably make the lives of North Korean refugees tough, just like Haejung’s.

Another factor that makes the refugees’ lives is the separation from their families. Majority of North Koreans come to South through the DMZ, or Demilitarized Zone.

DMZ

DMZ

When they come to South, it is most likely that they won’t be able to go back to their homes (they will be punished severely in the North, while South tries to protect the refugees).

As a student who went to Korean school and met some of the refugee students myself through academic programs, I have great empathy for them. I sometimes imagine what would happen if I were in that situation, or on the other hand South Korea becomes the relatively “poorer” nation.

In this sense, I hope the two Koreas become one nation.

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