Monday, December 19, 2011

Kim Jong-Il's death and how it's affected my community so far

As you can read here, Kim Jong-Il, the 17-year dictator of Communist North Korea died about 2 days ago.  The North Korean government television announced it today at noon, Korean time.  Just an hour after the news broke, I came down from lunch with my preschoolers and Corey asked, "Hey, Lindsay, have you seen the news?"

I was surprised and a little excited, but I had little connection with the earth shaking headlines.  It wasn't until I started looking into teaching here in Korea that I even learned which of the sides was the Communist one.  I was finally able to remember Kim Jong-Il's name probably 3 months ago.  I have talked about the unrest, the hope for reunification, and the regime of the Kims with my students a few times, but, not only is this not my country (not deeply, at least), but I have not been in the habit of being up to date in world affairs.

Still, there was energy in this news.  On my way back upstairs, I walked next to Elena, one of my Korean co-teachers, and I asked if she'd heard.  Kim Jong-Il is dead.  She gasped and looked at me in surprise.  
I asked her how she felt.  After a few "wow's," she told me that she is a little scared.  She doesn't know what will happen with the war.  And Kim Jong-Il's third son, Kim Jong-Un will be rising as the new dictator (assuming Kim Jong-Il's wishes are carried out).  This new guy is very young, and could be just a plain idiot.  There is so much uncertainty, and it's a little frightening.

When I arrived back in my preschool classroom, I relayed the information to my co-teacher and one of my closest Korean friends, Jinny.  She lit up in an unbelieving smile, hit the wall a few times, and was all around excited.  She had to leave before I could talk with her at length about it, but she did share a few misgivings as well.

In the afternoon, I asked two of my classes (3rd and 4th grade) about it.  Their public school teachers had told them what had happened.  (I was vividly reminded of my own experience at 9/11.)  The more animated of my students were cheering and shouting about going into North Korea and killing Kim Jong-Il's son and then his son as well.  They continued to play with imaginary machine guns for the majority of the class.  One of the girls, though, talked about the same fears that Elena mentioned.

I was able to ask one more of my Korean co-teachers in the early evening about what was going on and how she felt about it.  She was also quite worried and a little frightened, I think.  She talked about the new dictator, about how young he is (a 20-something), and about how the Korean won is going down in the stock market because the world is also getting worried about what's going to happen.
And that's what she said: "I don't know what's going to happen."

That is a very scary place to be.

 Korea prays for reunification.  It is hard to know now if that dream has come closer or if it's been pushed farther away.
There is no celebrating in the streets.  There is no bringing down of statues.  Save in my classroom, there is no cheering.  There is waiting and there is watching.


Me?  I am fine.  I've wondered if I should pack my computer and my camera with me when I leave for one week in America on Saturday, just in case I'm not able to return to Korea, but I'm not too worried.  South Korea has almost its entire male population ready and able to fill the army ranks if need be, and we have almost 30,000 US troops in Korea to help us out.  I'm not uneasy, not really, but I am poised to be uneasy if I need to be.  I won't worry until then.

1 comment:

  1. I wondered very much what you were experiencing in all this. Thanks for answering my unspoken questions. :-)


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