There is so much talk about North Korea in the news, most of which is in regards to violence and fear. Ever since Trump took office, American perception of North Korea has exacerbated. I would like to step back from the politics of it all for a minute, however, and talk about what all of this means to me as a young Korean American who feels distant but not separate from my heritage.
North Korean dictators, like most dictators, are the true culprits of the crime. I’ve always felt that when discussing North Korea, its entire population is unjustly lumped into the category that symbolizes all things evil and horrible. And I have been guilty of this too, because when you are raised to view an entity as something inherently bad, you can’t help but mesh everything—including its culture and people—together. But that’s messed up in many ways, and I came to realize that through some videos I stumbled upon years ago that completely changed my ignorant views. North Koreans are people, just like us, who just happen to be born in a totalitarian regime. It’s not their fault, in the same way that I don’t hold Trump’s values just because I live in the U.S. I am so sick and tired of people thinking that North Koreans are some uniform robot creatures who lack individualism and only repeat the words of their regime. Though I am not North Korean, I have had people genuinely ask me if I was one when I would tell them that I was Korean American. They expected me to spout some crazy escape stories with all the juicy deets about the rogue rule of Kim Jong Un. And I would smile politely and tell them that I am South Korean, and have just as much as knowledge of the daily lives of North Koreans as them.
This shows that people don’t talk enough about something that has always uncomfortably tugged at my inner moral fibers: reunification. I am not an international diplomat, and my extensive research on North Korea does not extend beyond the news and videos of undercover Americans in North Korea. Reunification between the two Koreas has been in the topic of discussion in my family for a long time. Some are for it and some aren’t. And as much as I wish for a happily-ever-after ending filled with rainbow cupcakes and flowers, it doesn’t seem feasible in any shape or form right now. When I asked my international politics professor about reunification, since his specialty is in the Koreas, he said that we often overlook all the problems that would arise: discrepancy in education, culture, and everything in between. So, he said that we need to figure out how to tackle those problems first, and then we maybe could discuss reunification. Aforementioned, I am not a historian, but something in my funny bones is telling me that those problems that we have to tackle in the hopes of reunification is a task up to my—our—generation. And though that’s a daunting responsibility in of itself, it’s certainly not impossible.