Today, I was curious to see what happened in South Korea (that would be internationally relevant) and decided to open the « South Korea » tab of Le Monde, one of the main French newspaper. I was surprised to discover that most of the articles deal with the North-South relationship. There were so little articles about other subjects (one article about the ‘Nuts Princess’, one about a gas explosion and one about selfie sticks) that it gives the impression that the life of South Korea revolves around the North-South relationship.
Since the two countries never signed a peace treaty, the situation is a bit tensed. I talked once with a Korean guy who was an exchange student in my French university, and he told me that during his military service (2 years), there was a really tensed moment when North Korea was being aggressive (it happens every other time); they had to sleep with their whole gear on, because who knows… Even though some people (and countries, like Japan) expected things to get better with the inauguration of Kim Jong-un* as the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it did not happen. He is playing hard to get, promising negotiations and then firing missiles. There seems to be no end to this hide and seek game, each party accusing the other of acting aggressively.
But if we look at it, South Koreans seem to be used to all the fuss their neighbor country does. I heard somewhere that in the early 90s, people would stock food, water and toilet paper when the North would act up. Now, people simply continue living. According to a survey conducted by South Korea government in 2014, only 13% of South Koreans still view North Korea as a hostile country, while 58% of them believed that they should cooperate with it.
It is such an odd relationship. It’s not even comparable to East and West Germany. It has such a long history that people start not really caring anymore. North Korea just looks like a country coming out of the past, while South Korea runs as fast as possible through the future. Their developments are so different that even if someone was to talk about reconciliation and reunification, it would be difficult to implement. Different economies, different policies, different cultures. Nowadays, there are only Japanese resident Koreans who can pretend be in the middle, oscillating between the past and the present. But since South Korean people tend to tell them coldly that they are Japanese, could they really become a bridge?
Since I visited Korea University in Japan (a school created for Korean residents – meaning people who do not belong either to South or North Korea, since they came to Japan before the separation of the 2 countries -, affiliated to North Korea), I became very interested in the issues revolving around Korea in general. Before that, I had a very limited image of what South Korea must be like, while totally ignoring the North (ah, prejudice…). But while listening to those resident Koreans talking about their trip to North Korea, their family, I really felt that there is much more than an overweighed Supreme Leader to talk about. On each side of the border, there are parted histories, parted families, parted feelings. Some people try to bring them together; some decided to leave them in the past.
North Korea and South Korea are two totally different entities. Saying “Korea” to talk about the “South” makes no sense. Especially since the name “Korea” comes from the Goryeo Dynasty (고려; 10th to 15th century), while South Korea’s Korean name is Daehan Minguk, coming from the Kingdom of Han, an ancient tribe that lived in the peninsula and North Korea, “Joseon”, takes its name after the famous Joseon Dynasty (조선; 14th to 19th century). The two entities are borrowing from the same history, but different periods. Korea does not exist. Not anymore, at least. It is funny that we still use this terminology. And it is also very confusing.
Anyway, this was an extremely weird article, without any conclusion. I just wanted to say that it’s interesting how little information we have about South Korea itself, since the great majority of articles are linked to North Korea. Is there so little to talk about?
*I still wonder why they write his name like this. Souldn’t 김정은 be written ‘Kim Jeong-eun’ ? After all, Kim Jong-un looks more like 김종운… This, again, is a proof that Korean is really complicated to put into alphabet, since there are different rules according to the translation language. Well, it can’t be worse than pinyin… *sigh*
Listening to: JONGHYUN – 데자-부 (Deja-Boo) (Feat. Zion.T)