Is this really happening?

Throughout my entire life, the Koreas have been at war.  The same can be said about just about all of my peers, friends and acquaintances.  Obviously, this doesn’t mean that there’s always been continuous combat for 36 years, but in the technical terms of the Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953, the fighting may have ceased, but the Korean War had never ended.  It’s safe to say that large chunks of the world’s populations have never known of a world where the Koreas have not been at war.

So it’s kind of surreal, almost strange, and definitely unbelievable the recent news of North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un meeting with South Korean president Moon Jae-In, and coming to terms and signing a peace treaty declaring a formal end to the Korean War.  It’s treading into waters that most of the world has never seen before, and it’s kind of amazing to think that babies born beyond April 27, 2018 will be coming into a world where the Korean War was not technically happening.

Seeing as how I am American by birth, and as authentically Korean as a Hyundai assembled in Mexico, I’m a little surprised at how much the news of the Koreas ceasing the war affected me.  I’ve only been to Korea twice, and know a pathetically paltry amount of the history of my ancestors.  Yet, reading news and progressions of the peace summit at Panmunjom really made me feel genuine hope, positivity and a swelling of emotion from within that I think I can only really explain as a result of my Korean heritage.

I know there are tons of people who are skeptical and untrusting of North Korea, and I’m most certainly not without my own skepticism and conspiracy theories of what might actually be in the works.  There are allegations that North Korea really fucked up on a missile test and took down a mountain, destroyed a major developmental facility, nuclear fallout, or all of the above.  There are theories that the escalating trade tensions between the United States and China have unintentionally begun to choke out North Korea’s primary trade partners, thus making them suffer, forcing them to become desperate and take these measures.  Both are somewhat logical and justifiable to why seemingly out of the blue, North Korea has been open to meeting with South Korea.

Or maybe Korean president Moon Jae-In really is that much of a miracle worker, whom in just eleven months after taking office has taken gargantuan diplomatic strides that the ten prior South Korean presidents were unable to do.  It makes me think that he’s a guy that actually understands that negotiation is seldom a 50/50 debate, and sometimes in order to get an obtuse party to listen, a little bit of leeway needs to be given here and there.

I talked to my dad about the whole thing, and despite my optimistic lean, he himself, a Korean born in the Motherland before the war even started is more skeptical than I am.  He explained to me that the President Moon’s reputation in South Korea is similar to Barack Obama’s reputation in America; popular and well-received among the young and liberal, but not nearly as well liked by the older, more conservative people.  A civil rights lawyer before he became President, it’s guys like Moon that put away former presidents for their corruption, and he seems a little too snakey for people like my dad.

I think the reality is though, as lovey-dovey as peace sounds, it’s still going to be another lifetime before actual change might really occur.  The war may be over, but it’s going to be a long process to transition to a world where North Korea’s walls and defenses will be completely down, and the rest of the world will have fairly free entry and travel rights into their country.  I may have a love for travel, but even I’d be cautious and not really in any rush to visit North Korea any time soon.  I feel like the primary impetus for all of this is that North Korea needs resources, and the quickest way to make it happen is by making nice with their neighbors, and South Korea is more than willing to accommodate, because the dream of the peninsula has always been unity.

For the time being, I’m trying not to be so skeptical and fatalistic about North Korea and I’m allowing myself to feel optimistic and basking in the positive step forward that this monumental occurrence is taking, because frankly it’s something that the entire world could really use.

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