As sure as am that I will eat tonight, I know that only kilometres from where I reside, thousands will go cold and hungry. The frigid Korean winters are particularly cruel north of Seoul and become unbearable north of the infamous 38th parallel.
Every few months, a news story will flash across my television about a small group of devoted humanitarians that have braved the wintery-winds to send up balloons weighted with varying cargo. They line the fences that separate the two Koreas to send messages of hope across the spoiled territories that enduringly divide. Some of these men and women are motivated by a theistic thirst, others out of an even higher power, that power being one of a sense of responsibility for others in need. This compassion and commitment that abides in so few of us, is now under threat by the official opposition in the Korean National Assembly.
Just this week a bill was introduced in South Korea’s assembly that will prevent these launches of any kind. National representative, Yoon, Hu-Duk of the ‘New Politics Alliance from Democracy‘, a name which means little and has values that sway with the seasonal zeitgeist of the electorate, has asked his comrades to help to further isolate the North from their brothers and sisters in the South. Essentially what this bill will do is to further stifle the flow of information from the overly saturated South to the hermit North.
Yoon, citing irrational concerns that the North is aggravated by these ‘marginally successful drops’, isn’t making much of a point, but instead presenting the media and his electorate with easily digestible and spurious arguments. In a recent statement, he said “The recent leaflet campaigns are worsening relations between the two Koreas…” suggesting that this is the reason for the failing talks between the two-(and six) party which clearly misses the point.
Failing to see the forest for the trees, Yoon is picking at one possible point of contention by the North, in a highly complex inter-Korean relationship instead of looking at the system that elects and appoints negotiators and diplomats that insist the other side concedes defeat.
Disclosure: The photos below are not of those from the recent balloon launches. These were taken previously for another story. Read: “Wading Through Shallow Waters” for more about Korea and why volunteers help each month.