There’s been a lot of talk about and mention of Koreans and the Koreas lately. This week’s episode of Kid Notorious will feature an over-the-top caricature of Kim Jong Il. The last few episodes of Reno 911 had a Korean national security expert as well as Officer Wiegel yelling at those Korean kids messing with her cat on Halloween night. Kimchee was featured on the Produce Pete segment on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The West Wing devoted an entire episode to a North Korean pianist’s attempt to defect and the concept of han. There hasn’t been this much attention on us since the Korean War. Ahem, sorry, “conflict.” But unfortunately, the threat of war is what once again brings the spotlight on that little peninsula on the other side of the world.
While the war in Iraq continues, North Korea rears its ugly head again and reminds us of a conflict that we had decidedly tried to ignore. The truth is that we should have paid this issue the proper attention months ago when they were kicking out UN officials, taking out fuel rods, testing missiles and tailing American spy planes. Time and time again, smart people around the world have been saying that this is the most unpredictable and unstable regime in the world. In fact, North Korea’s highest ranking defector has said this and confirmed what we were all fearing: Kim Jong Il is not just using nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip. If necessary, if pushed into a corner, he will use them.
But what bothers me the most about all of this is that all of the progress we seemed to have made during the Clinton administration has been undone by the current one. By not giving the crisis in North Korea the necessary attention and by taking an overly strict stance, the Bush administration has brought us back ten years, only this time, the North Koreans have had time to truly develop their nuclear weapons program. Gone are the inspirational days when families were reuniting for the first time after fifty years of separation, where brother could see brother once again, even if for a few moments under heavy guard. Gone are the days when North and South walked under one flag, even if only at the Olympics. Gone are the days when North Korea seemed to be willing to open up to South Korea so that Koreans could be united for one brief moment and perhaps, the world could see it as a sign that one day, outsiders would be allowed into the isolated country and bring compassion, democracy and change.
As a Korean American, I hold no allegiance to North Korea. If anything, I am among the most adamant about ending its dictatorial regime. Instead, I hold allegiance to America and Americans, to human beings both inside and outside of North Korea and the Korean peninsula, hoping that we will not be victims of nuclear war, of famine, of the unpredictable insanity of a dictator. And I hold allegiance to the Korean people, whether we are in North Korea, South Korea, the US or anywhere else, that we might be able to see families reunited, our people united once again. That we will no longer see our brothers and sisters living in hunger, in fear, in a quiet desperation under the control of a dictator.
Cartoon taken from NBC 10’s News Today.