Freedom, it is not a word that one hears all that much these days. Perhaps it is because it has become something of a cliché. Perhaps it is because people became wary of it from how it was used by George W Bush in the build up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it is a very important thing. Something that defines to me what it means to be an American. Not only that, it is the birthright of the entire human race something that many people have been brutally denied by those who believe it their right to lord over them.
Much has been said about the complete and utter lack of freedom in North Korea, one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. But I would like to take a moment to talk about South Korea, a place that despite sharing a common language and cultural heritage with its Northern Cousin has become as different from it as night and day.
All in all, South Korea is one of my favorite places. It is a very vibrant, dynamic and happening country of about 50 million people who produce a lot of catchy pop music, yummy women, chronically overacted drama series, an ancient an unique culture that does not get as much attention as it deserves (think of Korea as the middle kid Asia sandwiched in between its older brother China and its younger brother Japan) , incredibly skilled baseball players and of course, an almost disturbing devotion to Starcraft.
But they had a long road to get there. Let’s just say that the past century and a half or so of Korean history has been less than kind to them. So as not to bore my readers I shall give you the Cliff Notes version. In the latter half of the nineteenth century Asia was being overrun by westerners. The policy of the rulers of Korea at the time was to try to remain isolated as much as possible and rely on China to protect them. Unfortunately for them, China was having its own problems and Korea found itself in the middle of a power struggle between Russia and Japan. The Japanese eventually won out and in 1910 they annexed Korea. The Japanese were, less than benevolent lords to the Korean people. They deliberately tried to wipe out all vestiges of Korean language and culture and replace them with their own. Forcibly drafted their men into the Army and forced labor camps. Used their women as “comfort women” (or to put it another way, sex slaves) and generally were not all that nice to them.
Then came the end of World War Two and the Japanese surrender. Good news was that the Korean people no longer had to deal with all those not very nice Japanese anymore. The bad news was that Japan’s surrender took everyone so completely by surprise that the allies did even have time figure out what to do about Korea. This was somewhat complicated by the fact the both the US and the USSR had much, different plans for what post war Asia was going to be like. The solution that was so perfectly put together with such excellent foresight was this; divide the peninsula in two with the Soviets coming into the North, the Americans taking the South. The two forces shall accept the surrender of the Japanese troops stationed there and govern their parts of the peninsula until the Koreans can elect their leaders to rule themselves. Unfortunately for the Korean people, Stalin had other ideas and the rest is history.
We all know about how the North has fared since than. Now I shall tell you a little bit about the South. In what is something of an irony at the time of the division the most developed part of the country was the North. South Korea was an agrarian backwater. It also didn’t help that many of South Korea’s leaders were really not much better than Kims were and corruption was rampant. But the people of South Korea struggled and persevered. Now South Korea is one of the wealthiest, most advanced, and most free nations in the world. It is a miracle that they have achieved much of what they have achieved in just half a century.
But the freedom that the people of South Korea have attained from themselves has always been endangered by their neighbors to the North or, to be more exact, the tyrant who has anointed himself “The Dear Leader”. Seoul lies well within ranged of Northern artillery. The North’s nuclear ambitions are well documented. The North Korean regime officially declares that it is the sole legitimate government of all of Korea and its ultimate goal is to bring the South into the fold. This is blatant and intolerable aggression that threatened a way of life that the people of South Korea have struggled so hard to work for. Many military experts believe that a second Korean war would be over rather quickly once the US and South Korea committed to the conflict. But the price would be high in untold death and destruction to the South, Seoul at the very least would be left in ruins. All to serve some corrupt tyrants’ desire to “go down fighting.”
It is wrong for a free people like the people of South Korea to live their lives held hostage by these mad men who would see it destroyed out of spite. It is wrong that this people that have suffered so much in their history have to continue to endure a decayed relic of the Cold War. It is clear who the side of the angels is here. Now more than ever, we must stand against the forces of oppression and tyranny and with a free people in time of need.
Tae Han Min Guk.