I sucessfully made it through Wednesday, now lets see if I can make it through Thursday!
Yesterday I finished reading This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood. It was a really eye opening book. I can't say that I enjoyed reading it, because it was a book about how much the North Korean people are suffering, but I'm glad I read it because I think it's something that people need to be aware of. It was very interesting and very well written. But it was also very graphic in some parts, which was hard for me to read.
The things that the North Korean people are enduring, thanks to their leader who has an ego larger than the entire Asian continent, are heartbreaking. What it left me with is a hope that somehow Korea can be reunified and the border can be opened so that the North Koreans can become free.
The most heartbreaking part of the book for me was when the boy in the book finally reached South Korea and realized that everything he had been taught growing up was a big fat lie. North Koreans are told that Kim Il-Sung (the first North Korean leader) fought the Japanese army and cleared them out of Korea and that's how North Korea became its own country. He's hailed as a big hero for fighting off the Japanese and reclaiming Korea. In reality Japan was forced to hand over Korea at the end of WWII after the bombing of Hiroshima. It had nothing to do with Kim Il-sung. They're also told that South Korea started the Korean war and that the North Koreans were victorious because they were able to fight them off. In reality, we all know that Kim Il-sung himself was the one who started the war and tried to take over South Korea and was unsuccessful.
They were also told that South Korea was a horrible place where the government had collapsed and people were living in poverty with no food and no jobs. When the family in the book escaped from North Korea into China they initally didn't want to go to South Korea because as far as they believed it was a horrible place to live and they believed that everyone there was starving to death (which in the mid 90's, when this book takes place, was what was happening in North Korea and was what they were trying to escape). They couldn't stay in China though, or they risked being caught and sent back to North Korea to be "repatriated" (which sounds lovely, except that it means that they were probably just going to be executed). When they eventually did make it to South Korea what they found was a very prosperous country where people are educated, well fed and happy. They had no idea that in other countries people actually had plenty of food to eat and that people were quite happy running their own lives without the government telling them every move to make.
I can't imagine how betrayed they must have felt. North Koreans are essentially made to worship Kim Il-sung and his son, who is the current leader, and they are the very people who have been making their lives miserable all these years. That's heartbreaking to me. I watched a short documentary last night about North Korean refugees that was really interesting. More and more people are trying to escape from North Korea (to the frustration of China, who doesn't want them). I think more people are starting to realize that being completely controlled by the government is no way to live. I hope that at some point in the future there will be one free Korea where people aren't forced to live under the rulers thumb.
When we're in Korea we'll have the opportunity to visit the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) which is a strip of land that is kind of a buffer zone between North and South Korea. You can't really escape North Korea into South Korea very easily because of the DMZ. It's patrolled by the South Korean army and by the US army. It sounds like an interesting place to visit though and something I'm especially interested in touring while we're in Korea. There are observation points where you can stop and look into North Korea with binaculars from the South Korean side. That's something you don't get to see everyday.
Today I'm starting book two of my three book quest to learn more about North Korea. I'm trying to read all three of them by the end of the week and today is Thurday, so I'd better hurry up!