After a period of nearly three years of silence between the hostile Koreas, opportunity for dialogue has once again resurfaced over a disputed tourist zone. Mount Kumgang tours were suspended when a South Korean tourist was shot and killed in 2008, after wandering into a restricted area unknowingly.
In an effort to promote communication between the North and South we are again left wanting. While hopes are destined to remain high that operations will resume, one can only imagine the demands the North will have in order to restore “normalcy” to the tourist region.
What would appear to be games played by both sides are sadly the normal state of affairs. These games are cyclical and proceed in a typical fashion: The South reaching out for the sake of reunification, and its gratuitous financial investments—The North overreacting, withdrawing and periodically resuming prior conflict-state, following absurd demands in a manner that contrasts that of the South.
Many have friends in abusive, or otherwise dysfunctional relationships and fail to recognize the resemblance it bears to the Korean peninsula. Additionally, the reality of the relationship is that of a marriage in the 1950s: divorce is no solution, nor would it be advisable for the emotionally unstable children of the North.
The dilemma: every act of political strength on behalf of the South leads to more distrust and instability; ignoring problems will result in the South becoming a political doormat for their Northern neighbors.
Extending the marriage analogy further, a particularly relevant quote from G.K. Chesterton illustrates an excellent point:
“Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline.”
While it may never appear to be strong to return to the bargaining table at the beckoning of Kim Jung Il, taking the moral high ground will ultimately reveal a true heart of unification. In much the same way that marriage must take of us our whole lives, I believe the investment in reunification to be a most selfless act—requiring vulnerability and perseverance to a degree almost unfathomable.
Wrath, however justifiable, would leave both parties hemorrhaging with little or no hope for recovery. When an innocent citizen loses her life the desire of many is to “make South Korea an island,” but this must not be our response no matter the situation.
Military preparedness and technological superiority must remain a priority, but in the end, a heart ready to make wrongs right, and ears primed for dialogue must always be offered. Is not our goal reunification and reconciliation? Why, then must we seek to be right at the expense of our marriage to maintain a false position of strength and superiority?
Wikipedia: Kumdang Mountain.
*This was written for a job application and represents not only the information from the sources above but from many observations from my two years living in Seoul.*