Trips and Propaganda

It's been awhile since I last posted. My mom came out to visit us in S. Korea, which was wonderful. She left today, after being here for 1.5 weeks. We already miss her, and having her here and leaving has awoken in both Kristina and I a very strong desire to come home.

We did lots while she was here. We went to Gyongju and Seoul and the DMZ tour, and did lots of games and good times. We have had the use of Kristina's brothers digital camera, and we bought our own while we were in Seoul, so if anyone wants to see pictures, of our trips, or just Korea and our apartment and stuff, let me know. I will try to figure out how to put them up here, or get on of the picture account thingies....? anyway, I will probably be putting up pictures sooner or later.

Gyongju was the capital of one of the three kingdoms that made up Korea at the time (the Silla Kingdom) for 1000 years, from approx. 0 to 1000. We kind of got historied out there, we saw sooo much stuff. But it was definitely interesting.

This weekend we did the DMZ tour, and though we didn't go very far into it, we actually stood in N. Korea (max about 4 or 5 feet from the Military Demarcation Line (MDL)....). This tour was the most interesting trip, for me anyway. They explain the situation, giving you an outline of the Korean war and the major events since then. The most recent negative event (which is definitely what they focused on, not the multiple and varied attempts being made towards unification) that they told the story of was a 2001 or 2 (I can't remember) visit by President Bush.

Some explanation first. North and South korea are technically still at war, having lived under a mere armistice agreement for the past 50 years, or a ceasefire. The two countries are seperated by a 4 km wide demilitarized zone which runs the length of teh country. In the middle of this zone is the MDL. Near the western edge of the peninsula, basically north of Seoul, lies the village of Panmunjon. It sits astride the MDL and is the place of meeting for peace talks, U.N. delegation meetings, as well as the original signing place of the ceasefire. Along the center line run 6 buildings, 3 controlled by each side (hence being able to enter north korea, while in the U.N. controlled meeting room).

In 2002 Bush visited, and while he was in that same building two N.Korean soldiers entered, tore down the American flag, and began to polish there boots with it. He didn't say exactly what the response was, except that the flags are now in a plastic display case.

The most interesting part for me was the propaganda. At every turn the tour guides are at pains to point out the negative aspects of N. Korea, and how they spew out propaganda and so on and so forth. Both North and South Korea have a village in the DMZ. The S. Korean village is called "Freedom Village" and the N. Korean village is entitled "Propaganda Village". The reasoning for this is twofold. First, there is an extensive and loud speaker system in the NK village which used to broadcast propaganda that could be heard in the SK village and teh military bases along the DMZ. Secondly, nobody lives in the village except people who take care of the buildings and raise and lower the incredibly huge NK flag that is in the centre of the village (it is 31 meters long, weighs 600lbs dry, and takes nearly 50 men to raise and lower it). Only later, and as a side note, is it mentioend that the two countries agreed to stop broadcasting propaganda AT EACH OTHER in 1991. Also, "Freedom Village" is no less a propaganda village. The people there live in modern houses, unlike most of Koreans who live in apartments, they have over 1o times as much land as the average farmer in Korea, make much more money, and don't have to pay taxes. They are also personally gaurded by Korean army and U.N. forces.

Frequent mention is also made of buildings and flags that are built opposing each other (there is a flag pole in each village, or buildings in Panmunjon). In each case NK has made sure their's are taller. However, if you pay attention, it has been a generally ongoing battle between the two countries to have the taller stuff.

I find this all interesting because, despite the focus on the negative aspects of NK, SK does most of the same things. Now, make no mistake, there is a difference of degree, and most especially character, between NK and SK, and I in no way support NK or think it is a good place. However, I do find it very interesting that, despite our better way of life, in places like the DMZ there is still active effort to decieve the populace as to the actions taken against our enemies. Many may argue that this is mere common sense, you don't broadcast what you are doing in such a way that your enemy will get word, and I am not going to disagree with that. I just wonder how many of us think about the fact that we are still lied to on a regular basis. Of course, anyone who has been paying attention to the Bush administration should have recieved this wake up call a few years ago.

1 comment:

Anthony said...

just get a flickr account, easy to set up, works well with blogger, and has lots of other neat bells and whistles, ive started on...i want to see them all, btw.