Saturday, August 11, 2007

Reflections on Korea: Part 1

"Korea is a peninsula divided. Two nations, yet one people separated by history, ideology, and the demilitarized zone. It is within this zone that a fragile armistice endures the test of time and change in a standoff that is neither piece nor war. It is a place where servicemembers and civilians alike have sacrificed their lives to maintain a peace so thousands may live."

I wrote that piece as part of a script for a spot promotion on a documentary I helped produce with the American Forces Korea Network (AFKN) in Seoul. It was my first year on the peninsula and my first introduction into the complex division between the Korean people.

I was part of a team of reporters stationed in Seoul for AFKN, and each day, out of naivite, we would search the Associated Press wires for news that North Korea had advanced or provoked checkpoints at the worlds most heavily guarded border. None of us really knew the enemy or the enemies motives. We just knew that they existed, and that they were a constant threat to peace and stability in the region. That was the party line anyway.

But I wanted to go further and examine who we faced and why. What situations had led up to the current peace stalemate in effect for almost fifty years, and why the most fierce opponent of the United States would not yield in the face of one of the largest famines in the world that was plaguing their country.

I arrived in Seoul in November of 1996. Up until that time, mention of North Korea was limited to brief announcements on the local news about nuclear weapons development or the death of North Koreas dictator, Kim Il Sung.

I entered the country at the onset of renewed hostilities. North Korea sent a spy submarine filled with armed commandos into South Korean waters, and then ashore. The 25 infiltrators sent the peninsula in to a heightened state of security.

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