The 38th Parallel

Slice of Life Challenge Entry #18:

My previous entry has sparked me to write about a recent trip I made a few months ago to the DMZ (the 38th parallel) here in Korea. This is the border of North and South Korea. Actually, the Korean war never really stopped. They called a seize fire and now there is a heavily guarded border between the country, splitting it in half. As an American citizen, it is a much easier process go on a tour of the DMZ. There were a lot of one day packages you could purchase to see this in person. When I arrived there, I found out that for S.Korean citizens, there was a much stricter process. You needed to book it months in advance and go in a group of 30 people or so.

I was excited to finally go, but still feeling a bit nervous. I was going a week  after Kim Jong Il, the dictator of N. Korea had died and his son, Kim Jong Eun was put in power. This didn’t effect our tour plans, but there was more news on N. Korea and speculations of the effect of a new dictator put in power. We were prepped before going in on certain rules, wearing appropriate clothes, no open toed sandals, taking pictures only at certain places and no speaking in Korean.

After being passed multiple security guards and stations, we finally arrived in the DMZ. The area that is guarded heavily by South Korean and North Korean soldiers. We were being escorted by someone from the American army. He gave us specific instructions. When we got to the area where you can see the North Korean soldiers on guard in the distance, we were not allowed take pictures of the South Korean side of the building. However, we could take pictures of the North Korean side.

After standing in a line, taking pictures of the North Korean side and their building, they took us into the conference room where the North and South Korean leaders would meet at times. There were S. Korean guards inside there as well. My brother who was visiting at that time was taking pictures with his phone camera. Then, he started to take a picture out of the window of the S. Korean guard who looked like he was just staring at the building. My brother being naturally curious and intrigued that this soldier was looking straight at a building, started to take a picture of him. In a matter of seconds, the tall bulky army escort walked over to him and said that he was not allowed to take that picture. He made him erase it immediately. Luckily, he didn’t take the phone from him. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

We came back on the bus, and started the journey back to Seoul (only 2 hours away). I couldn’t really believe it. I was back to the busy streets of Myeong Dong full of tourists and shoppers, where they dropped us off at the hotel lobby. Only a few hours ago, I was at one of the heaviest guarded borders in the world. I could actually look into the vast land of North Korea and whisper prayers for the people suffering there.

Here are some photos from the trip. (Thanks Stacie for teaching me how to insert a slideshow!)

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Noticing the Light

Slice of Life Entry Challenge #17:Noticing the Light

As I mentioned in my slice from yesterday, our class is reading Number the Stars as our read aloud. We are in deep in a historical fiction unit right now. My students have started making some deep connections of the book, and I am so thankful. I read the part where they say that all of Denmark is dark after sunset. They are not allowed to have their lights on after a certain time and their electricity is rationed. My students are continually shocked and surprised. In Seoul, our Interent connection is probably one of the fastest in the world, and flashy signs and lights are everywhere.

One of my students commented how at night, South Korea is bright and full of lights, while North Korea is black with very lights. There is a famous picture that shows this difference. We started to discuss some of the similarities between North Korea and what the people in Denmark were experiencing. My students are very sheltered in some ways. Yes, they do see the news on T.V. and are influenced by the media, but I wonder, if they really know what is happening in North Korea. We do talk about it in class, but I don’t know if they just brush it off since they are used to hearing about it.  I wonder if they are truly aware that their neighbors are suffering, hungry and crying out for help. Yet, no one seems to really be hearing them.