Yin and Yang

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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.

 

 

 

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One body

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There is a saying in the Bible about the importance of the many parts making one body.

that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” – 1 Cor. 12:25-26

It was from this particular bible verse that inspired this drawing. I wanted to depict how North and South Korea was of one body (one Korea), and that it was impossible to see them as separate entities. Whenever one part of the body does well, the whole body rejoices. But if one suffers, all suffer together because that’s just how intricately connected they are. Likewise, South Korea cannot ignore North Korea’s problems, just because they are out of sight and isolated from the rest of the world. As one body, they have to see these problems as a part of their problems as well, and only by doing so will they be collectively able to reap the full benefits of a well-functioning body (one Korea).

More than just a face

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With North Korea being the most isolated country in the world, it is uncommon to see or hear about the country aside from the occasional news article or testimony by North Korean defectors about the country. Being cut off from the rest of the world, we are more oft than not left guessing what life is really like back in North Korea. We see pictures of North Korean soldiers, but may find it hard to relate to them because of how inanimate or mechanical they seem. Most of the photos seem like propaganda with citizens dutifully paying their respects to the Kim regime, with well-rehearsed smiles and tears.

I drew this photo because I wanted to challenge us to see beyond these photos. While images are powerful, we must note that they can be manipulated. It is up to us to see and realize that what we see may not really reflect what these people are going through. They are more than what is being presented by the media, and it is up to us to realise the value and worth of these people by educating ourselves about the true realities that these North Koreans go through on a daily basis.

 

Lest we forget

We see in the news, the occasional updates of North Korea when there is something sensational/worth covering, such as the recent murder or assassination of Kim Jong-un’s older half-brother Kim Jong-nam, or when he ordered the execution of his uncle. And because how these issues are usually sensationalised by the media, we often forget the bigger picture that beyond these sporadic events, there lies a pressing, enduring issue of North Korean citizens being oppressed day by day.

Autobiographies and accounts by survivors help us keep things in perspective, and while no one likes to be reminded of depressing, unhappy events, it is important to know them. To ignore or dismiss that these events ever happened, is one of the greatest indignities that human beings can inflict on each other.

The preface by Robert McAfee Brown, in Night by Elie Wiesel, puts into words the importance of remembering such events rather nicely: “Among the few who survived the onslaught of that formidable shadow turned substance, was Elie Wiesel, whose deliverance condemned him to tell his story to an unbelieving and uncaring world. But because of his telling, many who did not believe have come to believe, and some who did not care have come to care. He tells the story, out of infinite pain, partly to honour the dead, but also to warn the living – to warn the living that it could happen again and that it must never happen again. Better that one heart be broken a thousand times in the retelling, he has decided, if it means that a thousand other hearts ned not be broken at all.

Let us not so quickly dismiss the accounts/testimonies of these North Korean defectors. Let us find it in ourselves to believe and care for them, and to open our doors if need be. Just because they live on the other side of the world with their own unique set of issues, does not make them any less important or valuable. We do not know how long the Korean unification will take, but let us not forget our fellow brothers and sisters in North Korea. And whatever may come or whatever it may take, let us journey with them until the very end.

 

 

North Korean defector Yeonmi Park

Recently, I chanced upon this video of North Korean youth defector Yeonmi Park, of her escape account and experiences in North Korea. What she shared wasn’t anything new, but hearing about all the atrocities and oppression again in North Korea tugged on my heartstrings and reminded me of the brief interaction I had with North Korean youth defectors myself last year.

When Park described her ordeal, it seemed almost surreal, something that seem to only happen on television and in movies. Some have even stated that Park’s account was inaccurate or untruthful, a highly publicised stint by the organisation that she is representing. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but to me, I feel the sincerity and rawness of Park’s account. Yes, what she is sharing is something unfamiliar, out of the ordinary,  so much so that one might doubt the truthfulness of her words. All this is fair, but why would you choose to doubt a person before you even allow yourself to trust them? Just because they went through something that you don’t usually experience, doesn’t make it a whole lot less real for them.

And I guess one of the reasons to why I find myself having such a strong reaction to this account by Yeonmi Park is because it reminded me of the brief interaction I had with North Korean youth defectors myself last year. I have heard their stories, and I have personally witnessed how their experience has affected an integral part of who they are. To name a few, they have smaller physiques and psychological health issues as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and all of what they experienced has played an integral role in shaping their personalities and identities. Some of these youths have difficulty opening up to new people because they were taught to trust no one.  Some were forced to grow up and mature faster than their age because they were separated from their parents at a young age. And because, some of these children had to witness the traumatic ordeal of seeing their families and friends die in front of them, these scars remain with them even until many years later. I only pray that the scars fade with time, and these youth defectors can find peace within themselves and lead lives with a semblance of normalcy.

North Korea satire

Satire is usually used in political contexts, and involves the use of irony, exaggeration or ridicule as a form of criticism regarding a certain figure or issue.

There is much satire directed towards the Kim regime, making fun of the former and present leaders, their fashion, fetishes, personality and appearance. The reason why satire is commonly used and accepted is because while it is a form of mockery, there is some truth to the statement or idea that is presented.

One rather viral satirical video of the Kim regime, or more specifically of former leader Kim Jong-il is by Team America in 2004 titled “I’m so Ronery (Lonely)”. It depicts the former leader voicing out his frustration in a song, about how the rest of the world are not in agreement to the way he does things, resulting in him being isolated (and ignored).

Note: In the video, Kim Jong-il is depicted as having difficulty pronouncing the ‘L’ syllable, or speaking with a lisp, replacing all the words with the ‘L’ syllable to the ‘R’ syllable instead.

An excerpt of the lyrics:

I’m So Ronery
So ronery
So ronery and sadry arone
There’s no one
Just me onry
Sitting on my rittle throne
I work rearry hard and make up great prans
But nobody ristens, no one understands
Seems like no one takes me serirousry
And so I’m ronery
A rittle ronery
Poor rittle me
There’s nobody
I can rerate to
Feel rike a bird in a cage
It’s kinda sihry
But not rearry
Because it’s fihring my body with rage
I’m the smartest most crever most physicarry fit
But nobody else seems to rearize it
When I change the world maybe they’ll notice me
But until then I’rr just be ronery
Rittle ronery, poor rittle me
I’m so ronery

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There have been many other North Korean satirical acts, and consequently, but not surprisingly, it has lead to a move by the current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un banning North Koreans from using satire or sarcasm in their everyday conversations

Certain banned phrases include, “A fool who cannot see the outside world”, and “This is all America’s fault” – a jibe that has come about as a result of the North Korean authorities constantly blaming the U.S. for their problems.

Issues of warning have been given out, warning citizens that satire directed toward the regime or the use of ironic statements ‘will not be forgiven’ and will be seen as ‘hostile actions’.

 

 

References:

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/09/08/north-korean-dictator-kim-jong-un-bans-sarcasm.html

Perspectives

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It goes without saying that perspectives are important. Its not realistic to paint everything as black and white, right and wrong. Even with regards to North Korea and the Korean unification issue, some might see North Korea as the main antagonist, frequently citing its human rights abuses and its inhumane treatment of its citizens.

Ultimately, how one perceives a certain issue depends on which vantage point one is looking from. From North Korea’s perspective, U.S. is seen as the main antagonist/’enemy’ that is impeding the whole unification process, whereas its vice versa for the U.S.

And while the U.S. villianizes North Korea, China on the other hand chooses to see North Korea as its ally (though it is questionable if their current alliance is as strong as it was in the past).

The Korean unification should not be fixated on who is ‘right’ or who is ‘wrong’ for Korea’s separation, but instead focus on the need to have Korean unification – restoring the status quo of the Korean peninsula.