The NIMBY (“Not in my Backyard”) syndrome seems to be aptly represented by the current public sentiments among South Koreans. Being economically more successful than their neighbor, many of them share the fear that unification will only bring more harm than benefit, threatening their current comfortable way of living. Even though North Korea is literally right in South Korea’s backyard, there are some who choose to conveniently forget the reality that the two Koreas are divided and are in a state of war, all because they fear losing their material wealth.
While separated and technically at war with each other, North and South Korea share many similarities like in their economic ambitions, their mountainous landscapes and their shared history. Day by day, life goes on with some form of nomalcy for the people in these countries, and the idea of them being separated has perhaps been accepted as a reality by most. But through this drawing, I wanted to convey the idea that there is still hope. As long as there is another day, and as long as people are hanging onto their wish of unification, that distant, seemingly elusive goal can be realized.
I wanted to depict that the path towards Korean Unification required effort and persistence. There are many obstacles such as differences in ideologies and leadership that are hindering the unification of the two Koreas, but so long as the common goal of unification is pursued on both sides, I do believe that there will come a day where we can see these two Koreas overcoming their differences and be reunited. All it takes is the first step.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this popular fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, but it is a story that I grew up with. “The Princess and the Pea” is a tale of a prince who is searching for a suitable wife, and the queen, wanting to test and confirm the royal identity of his potential wife resorts to testing her physical sensitivity by placing a pea under a high mound of mattresses and feather-beds. The test is deemed successful, if the lady is able to feel discomfort due to the pea.
This particular story seemed to resonate a chord with me with regards to the current issue between North and South Korea. According to the results of a recent poll I read sometime back, it seems like the number of South Korean youths seem to regard the issue of Korean Unification with less and less importance as compared to other issues that were deemed more ‘pressing’ such as getting into college and so on. I wanted to depict the idea that while South Koreans may be busy trying to stack up on their material comforts, in hope of attaining a higher satisfaction of living, they will never be completely feel comfortable as long as there is the issue of Korea being divided. They may choose to conveniently neglect the issue of Korean Unification, but they’ll never be able to forget or disregard it completely.
It is a well-established fact of the deep-seated animosity between North and South Korea. Due to irreconcilable differences, and the North and South being unable to see eye to eye on crucial issues, the once unified Korea has remained separated for more than fifty years. And as long as they are unwilling/unable to solve their differences, it seems like the two Koreas will continue to have their backs turned to each other, until one decides to reach out and be willing to accomodate to the other first.
While incorporating the flags of the two Koreas into my drawings, I found myself wondering how a unified Korea flag would look like. As I studied the two flags, I realized that there was similarity between the two flags, in terms of the colors primarily used i.e. blue and red. And as I was looking at the taeguk (“yin and yang” inspired) symbol, an image of an infinity symbol suddenly came to my mind. Through this drawing, I wish to express the idea that North Korea and South Korea are more similar than they are different, infinitely bound to each other despite their differing ideologies and cultures.
If you haven’t already noticed, the Taegeuk found in the South Korean flag show is actually adapted from Korean Taoism values, inspired by the duality of the Yin and Yang, both different in their own way, but part of a oneness. Each side is mutually interconnected or interdependent to each other, and it is believed that the system in which they are part of cannot function if either side ceases to exist, or if the status quo is at disequilibrium.
When I see the South Korean Taegeuk, I see the blue side which is the democratic South Korea and the red side which represents the communist North Korea. I love the depiction of duality through the yin and yang principle, and its emphasis on harmony and cooperation. While the current system is at disequilibrium right now with the two Koreas separated, I hope that the status quo will be at equilibrium soon with Korea’s unification.