Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Sleeping with the enemy part 2

Yesterday I attended Christmas dinner at my ambassador's residence.

As we had been talking and mingling among each other the topic of recent events came up naturally and we had been wondering what comes next in inter- Korean relations and how it may affect our lives as expatriates.

Although general public does not care at all, the government does. At some point I said that I admire their cold-blooded reaction for Cheonan sinking in March, as in the West it would probably result in war. My current boss said that the chain of avoiding responsibility and pushing decisions as high up as possible is what makes that cold-blooded reaction. I cannot repeat here all the comments and remarks for obvious reasons. Although everyone agreed that life in Korea is like sleeping with the enemy. I heard that once from Swedish colonel from the Panmunjom base. In my recent coverage for press it is confirmed by many statements from guys who had accomplished military service. The threat is there and life goes on. Thrilling and toxic in one.

A year ago one of my readers asked me what would be the path to reunification and whether I believe in it or not. And if I could describe North and South Koreans as two different nations. I ask such questions very often and I see that the attitude varies depending on the generation and on the position. Older people repeat like mantra that there are only one Koreans and that South Korea moves on behalf of North in the international scene as well. The theme of broken families appears every now and then too.

But younger generation if asked really thoroughly replies clearly that North Korea is a problem, but it should be reseolved differently and that even if the regime changes one day they do not want 20 million of hungry people to be fed at their expense. They do not want higher taxes and no longer feel any kinship. If it was me to bet what is going to happen in the future, I bet that there will be two Korean states. They will maybe merge one day but only in a federation and only if the North catches up economically.

Are they two nations? Maybe... already yes maybe not yet. But... the first layer of Korean mentality is hierarchy and kinship - this is common for both South Koreans and North Koreans. Equally important in both societies. But the core difference is in the layer which was created very recently - the attitude to consumerism and competition. The attitude to democracy and acceptance of different ideas. Despite some 50 000 North Koreans who stay hidden in China and numbers in other countries, majority is behind the iron curtain brainwashed and convinced that elsewhere are only problems, diseases, AIDS, terrorism, etc. If even some of them watch South Korean dramas in secrecy, there is a chance that their mindset is non-capable of accepting modern capitalistic competition and requires a lot to be just given - a phenomenon known as homo sovieticus. South Koreans are totally different. Accept rat's race and competition, public debates, differences in the opinions as part of the normal daily life. My answer is yes, they are on the way to split forever.

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