Friday, August 21, 2009

Times, they are changing...

The interesting thing about being in one of the last divided countries in the world is that it's possible to be on the cusp of some intense action and discussion. It seems that every time Kim Jong-Il fires off another missile over the Sea of Japan or the China Sea, no one in South Korea really pays much mind, even if I am getting many concerned messages from home asking if I am worried about the possibility of North Korea attacking. I say as long as the U.S Embassy hasn't emailed me saying to evacuate the country and South Koreans aren't panicking then I shouldn't be too worried about it. Many Koreans haven't forgotten the pain of being divided from family and friends and hope that someday the future will bring the reunification of the two Koreas.

But even with all the tension surrounding North Korea's dissolving of the six-party talks and launching test missiles, it seems there is an opening in the gray clouds surrounding political and social relations. Recently, former President Clinton came to Pyongyang to speak on the behalf of two American journalists who had been sentenced to 10 years in a work camp for trespassing into North Korea. They were later released, along with a South Korean who had been detained for several months.

North Korea has also reopened dialogue with South Korea, following the recent death of former President Kim Dae Jung. An envoy of important North Korean figures were dispatched to attend the funeral and pay their respects to the man who had fostered a "Sunshine Policy." Kim Dae Jung, always at the forefront for promoting respect among his countrymen, was responsible for sending aid to the North and encouraging positive talks. This paved the way for joint construction projects, as well as temporary reunions between separated families.

After a frosty beginning with the installation of President Lee Myeong Bak, it seems that relations are warming up once again. North Korea entered private talks with Lee Myeong Bak on Sunday. Projects that were once shut down are now running again, tourists will be able to visit select places in the North, and there is on-going discussion regarding the nuclear program. Tiny steps, but steps to progress nonetheless. In a country where everything and everyone is balli balli from day to day, it will be interesting to witness the evolution of this budding relationship and how much time it takes to grow.

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