Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Korea: A New Season

I've been there. South Korea at the beginning of monsoon season is hot, sticky and absolutely damp.

South Korea is also at the cusp of another season- a season of tension and possibly great change.

Ailing dictator Kim Jong-Il has named his third (and I believe illegitimate) son, Kim Jong-Un as his successor. Not much is known about this third son whom some believe was groomed for this hereditary position. It is believed that Kim Jong-Un was so awarded in order to prevent a possible power struggle in the event of the elder Kim's death. I would argue it doesn't matter as North Korea is owned by China and has been since the beginning of the Korean War.

North Korea is again preparing to fire medium-range missiles. It is believed that North Korea possesses missiles that could land as far away as Alaska (maybe British Columbia). Why there are no serious plans in effect to deal with this is uncertain. North Korea no doubt wants its benefits fully re-instated (food for the leaders only). It could also be rattling its sabre without China's express permission. If so, North Korea is pulling a move patented by Tito- remove oneself from the sphere of dominant influence and branch out on your own.

I could be wrong, though.
The human cost of North Korea, unfortunately, remains unchanged:

Kim Soon-ok was her name in North Korea. Her father, a Korean Japanese,
came to North Korea on the repatriation ship. The first child, Soon-ok, had been
a good singer since childhood. One day, a teacher from the art school called her
in and demanded a bribe of a goat, since her family, with relatives in Japan,
must be well off. Soon-ok wanted to become a teacher after graduation, so she
decided to go to China for just one month and make the necessary money. She
crossed the Duman River in September 1998.

At the time, North Korean refugees were marched back to North Korea
chained together in pairs. She saw groups of such people every week. She met her
husband, a South Korean. Speaking her mother tongue made her happy. Soon she got pregnant, and the couple promised to go to South Korea together.

One night in May 2000, Kim boarded a people smuggling boat. Her husband
promised to meet her in South Korea as soon as he had saved enough money to
travel. Seven months pregnant, Kim hid under a bundle of sheets. One night's
sleep in the boat should have taken her to Incheon, but suddenly she woke up to
the sound of hobnailed boots: the boat was being checked in the open sea by a
North Korean patrol ship. "I thought I was going to die. I wanted to jump right
into the sea, but I missed the right moment."

She was sent to the North Korean State Safety and Security Agency in
Sinuiju. Seeing her belly, an officer took her to a hospital. A doctor took a
blood sample and swore. "Got pregnant with a South Korean baby?" The doctor
examined her womb with his hand in search of the baby's head. He injected her
with a huge syringe and gave her a large bucket. She started bleeding, and the
dead baby came out. She could not even cry. To survive, she took the bucket out
to the doctor to get a certificate. "I was the mother but couldn't do anything.
The baby was still moving in the bucket!" Recalling that day, even now Soon-ok
cries for hours.

(Strangely enough, some would consider the last incident nothing of great importance.)

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