Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sokcho and the DMZ, Part 2: Exposure to the Korean War

Day two of our vacation began pretty early since we needed to be ready to leave for our DMZ tour at 09:00.  We gobbled our processed and preserved pastries then headed out the door.  The same cab driver from before greeted us.  I'm glad to say that he looked a lot more friendly and trustworthy now that we knew where he was taking us.

We first went to the observation tower.  We had to write our names on a form that the cab driver (affectionately called "Homie" by Jessica) passed to the young army men at the checkpoint halfway there.  The young man looked at the paper, checked in our trunk, gave us a permission slip, and motioned us onward.  The threat level has gone up and down since the war ended due to outbursts of aggression, the discovery of North Korean tunnels leading into South Korea, and other things, but we weren't in any real danger being so close.  Even so, my mind was not allowing the connection between War Zone and Tourist Attraction.  I've never studied the Korean War, and I've only heard small amounts of unverified information about the current state of communist North Korea.  Still, something very strange clicked on inside me when I saw a Dippin' Dots stand outside this building marking the bloodiest part in this people's history.  It just didn't seem right.

The observation tower was set up by the North Koreans.  The plaques and posters there were all in Korean besides their headings of "Fashion of North Korea," "Food of North Korea," Technology of North Korea," and so on.  The pictures were barely informative, and I understood that they were set up and posed anyway.  The North Korean people live in very harsh conditions with most of their food being reserved for a hungry army.  The crew discussed "what the heck can the North Koreans do?!" and Todd didn't like the fact that they can't just go out for mandu.  The sparkling amethyst jewelry at the observation tower gift shop looked extremely out of place in a museum falsely describing the plight of 23 million confused, brainwashed, and suffering people.

Unfortunately, the mist and fog were too thick for us to see anything well from the observation decks, so we didn't actually see North Korea, but we took our picture in front of where North Korea should be anyway.  There was more to see at a nearby Korean War museum.  There were some displays of articles from the war, a life-size diorama of army barracks, and a large tribute to the UN and the countries who helped the South Koreans in the war.  There was also a short movie that showed images of the war along with a timeline of the events.  Marie and I went back to the theater to watch it.  After solemnly walking through the museum thus far and after letting the sorrow, pain, and terror wash over me, this film broke my heart.  I wasn't able to process through what was happening in my emotions and my mind.  I process by speaking or writing, and I wasn't with anyone with whom I felt I could share.  I did ask Marie if she would let me hold her hand for a while.  It was a satisfactory substitute for crying on one of my beloveds' shoulders.

Our cab driver had been keeping his eyes on us the entire time, not to make sure we weren't doing anything wrong, but to help us out and to keep us on schedule.  He really was a brick the whole day.  He took us to a second museum.  This one was, in a word, excellent.  It was extremely well done, well thought out, and the information was well articulated in English and, I assume, Korean.  If I remember correctly, there was also Chinese or Japanese available.  The first museum had already pulled my heart down to a very sorrowful place, and this second one had its hold on my soul, too, but, gosh!  There was so much English!  This meant there was so much information available to me!  The intellectual, museum-loving, knowledge-desiring part of me leapt up to the occasion.  I learned so much!  And it was awesome!

At the end of the museum, there were large, fake trees made for people to attache paper leaves to by twisty-ties.  (Think 2009 Jr/Sr awesomeness.)  There were pens available with which to write on the leaves.  From reading the leaves I could find written in English, plenty of people seemed to be at a loss of what to say.  There was one leaf that said, "I learned what DMZ means. LOL."  I'm glad that this person learned something new, but I was surprised that this was the only thing they wrote.  My heart had been broken for these people.  Sympathy and empathy had been roiling in my guts all day.  My soul rallied with them in their desire for reunification with their brothers and sisters.  My group went on, but I stayed there among the trees, raised my hands a little, and prayed for the coming healing, regeneration, and redemption.  May I say?  I am so glad I serve a God that has promised to make all things new.  The hope I felt inside of me, it wasn't an "I hope that this will happen one day."  Thought tinged with sadness at the need of redemption, it was an "I am confident redemption is coming; I hope it comes soon" kind of hope.  That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

The rest of the afternoon involved us going out from the museum and being dropped off by Homie.  He told us to call him when we were finished wandering around the tourist area.  He never showed when we called, and we hesitantly got in a different cab driver's car, all squished and not too optimistic.  We'd grown pretty loyal to Homie since the last afternoon, you see.  New Cab Driver did get us home safely, though, but we'd left our stamped pictures we made at the museum with Homie.  Wouldn't you know it?  Homie stopped by our minbak, knocked on our door, woke us up from our nap, and dropped them off for us!  That guy is indisputably awesome.

After our nap and some dinner, we settled in to watch Taegukgi, a Korean film about the war.  Guys, this film was truly excellent.  Very graphic and very difficult for my sensitive heart to watch, but very informative and very well-made.  I didn't see anyone else in the room crying, but I'd say, if you have a box off tissues and a good buddy to watch it with, go for it.

Translated: The Brotherhood of War (2004) Rated: R
Poster image via Wikipedia
After this movie, the crew decided on Step Brothers to lighten the mood.  This led to bedtime with Jessica and I being offered the bed this time.


You can go to this highly recommended site for beautiful and telling photos of the current state of North Korea.
This is a small but neat article about students getting to visit North Korea.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you got quite a connection to the culture. What is the attitude of most S. Koreans about their strange situation with their kin country?


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