Sunday, August 20, 2006

Full to the brim


Greetings, all.

My time in Korea is quickly coming to a close -- much too quickly! I had a very full past few days.

On Friday, I went to Paju city, a town about an hour away from Seoul by car, adjacent to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that divides South and North Korea. I visited the Reunification Observation Tower from which one can see North Korea across the Han River. The lack of populous in the village in view fails to belie the fact that it is not a living village but is, in fact, a demonstration village.

(View within the Reunification Observatory: South Korea to the left side, North Korea to the right side.)

(Close-up of a demonstration village across the river -- it looks like a ghost town.)

Most of the world does not know the bottomless misery, ferocious poverty and savage oppression under which most North Koreans live (if you can call it living, under those circumstances). Famine has claimed tens of thousands of lives due to the reprehensible "economic" policies of the North Korean government. Entire villages perished. And no one will ever know exactly how many people died, their names or the particular circumstances, because of the maniacal secrecy and barbaric subjugation of the people by the regime of Kim Jong Il.

Here's a link that is one example of this deplorable situation:

Overall, the division of Korea remains a grief-stricken state of affairs that pre-occupies the daily thoughts of this South Korean nation for which there is no solace until Korea becomes whole.


On Saturday, I climbed Mt. An! Well, the elevation was not much (but it was 6:30am, and I hadn't had any caffeine at that point...) The views of Seoul were superb. About half-way up the mountain, exercise equipment (like weight machines and so forth) were to my avail. On the way down, I saw a Buddhist enclave with a very old and beautiful temple, parts of which were built during the Silla dynasty.

Also on Saturday, with my cousin I (re-)visited the Korea National Museum (a phenomenal place, truly a world-class museum), ate bibimbop in Myeongdong (thanks, brarthar, for the reminder info!), and saw a little more of the Seoul nightlife around one of the well-known thorough-fares, Jungno, which can be compared to Fifth Avenue. My cousin and I always have very in-depth conversations all along the way, and the better I get to know him, I know he is family through and through. He shares that sensibility for the arts (the belief the arts are of intrinsic value) and deep thoughtfulness about life. He also shares my zest for exploration and travel (although I am probably a bit more adventurous than he!)

(A national treasure from the Silla dynasty period.)

A luminescent sky upon leaving the museum:

On Sunday, I went to a family-related memorial service, which had many levels of meaning for me -- most especially as my father's daughter and as a Korean for whom honoring family is a part of the Confucian tradition, one of the axioms for leading a harmonious life.

So, I am full to the brim.

p.s. more pictures to come


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