Guest Post by: Nancy Nguyen, a sophomore at the Foster School of Business studying Accounting and Information Systems. Nancy studied abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea and also received a GBC Study Abroad Scholarship to help with her costs.
I decided to take a break from my studies for a day to travel north to the demilitarized zone, otherwise known as the DMZ, to learn more about the Korean War — the war that split the Korean Peninsula in half — and to gain further understanding of South Korea’s current political turmoil concerning its relationship with North Korea. For all intents and purposes, I expected this trip to be purely academic and politically enlightening as it’s an area under heavy military surveillance and where tense diplomatic meetings take place. But instead, I was given a different point of view concerning war and peace. Here is a short recap of my experience at the DMZ.
It was an incredible coincidence that the day my flight landed was July 27th: the day that North and South Korea agreed to an armistice. A ceremony filled with singing was held to honor the anniversary and, confused, I ask an elderly man nodding to the music, “What is going on?” He turns to me, and says “We’re here to wish for peace. Everyone here has families they wish to see again in North Korea.”
After listening to a couple Korean trot performances, I began to walk around the area and I soon found an installation of ribbons and posters with wishes written on them. I was unable to read most of them as my Korean is limited, except one that read “Let’s go to Europe on a unified train.” There were hundreds upon hundreds of these ribbons and banners hung up, but this one stuck with me. I wondered how long ago this ribbon was tied up and whether this person will ever have their wish granted.
Near the end of the visit, my tour guide took us to the Dorasan Station. It’s common knowledge that South Korea is a network made of train tracks — it’s what keeps the country functioning. Not in use and used more as a symbol for reunification, there’s a posted sign that reads “To Pyeongyang”. It was surreal how it was a real station that travels between South and North Korea and that perhaps, one day in the future, people would be able to ride it.
I don’t know if the two Koreas will ever be unified. Some argue that too much time has passed causing the two countries to be far too different to ever become one again. The conversation for unification is also quickly turning towards wanting none at all as the new generation continues to distance themselves from the war. But, despite the ongoing politics and debate, I do believe that one day, this border will open at least enough for families to see each other again.