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Talk about big news! A new regime in North Korea! So, will North Korea open up its dark doors a squeak now that it’s a new day and a new – yet dynastically related – leader? As the Swiss-educated Kim Jong Un takes on the role of Supreme Leader (why can’t I be a Supreme Leader?) and Kim Jong-il is put to rest, I can’t help but wonder, along with much of the world, if this will lead to a new year of change.
This makes me think of my own near-North Korean-related reminisces, back when I went to GSIS, the Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University in Seoul. As Seoul is less than 50 miles south of the NK border, any time the North Korean troops mobilized along the border, which was quite often, tensions would rise and foreigners would start calculating how long it would take to escape the city via a dingy down the Han River.
So here, direct from Toronto, is my strongest North-Korea-related memory. A Pig Roast at the DMZ.
While my roommate competed in the salsa contest, I sat on a hill and wondered what the North Korean soldiers spying on us through binoculars must be thinking. The fiesta was organized by the officers stationed up at the Demilitarized Zone to celebrate Hispanic Week. There was booze, dancing, nonstop DMZ tours, a crispy roasted pig on a spit and FYI, my roommate won the salsa dancing contest.
Today, when other people talk about their organized DMZ tour in hushed sombre tones, about the tension and bloody history, I know what they mean – it’s impossible not to feel it when you’re there. The whole place is a living remnant of the Korean War, peppered by grizzly tales like the infamous Hatchet Incident of 1976, when a group of military personnel went into the JSA (Joint Security Area) to chop down a tree and North Korean soldiers attacked, axing two U.S. soldiers, Capt. Bonifas and Lt. Barret to death.
I didn’t mean for this post to be depressing – it’s supposed to be a message of hope that North Korea may be feeling the wind of change. And that for all its gloomy history and current-day tensions, the DMZ will host many more pig roasts and salsa dancing contests in the future.
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