Friday, December 20, 2013

Considering North Korea

Here's my latest piece at Korean American Story, about my relationship to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, and the process of learning more about it as I've developed my young adult novel-in-progress, In the Shadow of the Sun, which is set there:
"Despite having lived within two hundred or fewer miles of the dividing border for much of my childhood, I only thought of the northern half of the Korean peninsula on occasion. My earliest associations were of spooky, dramatic names like 'No Man's Land' and the 'Bridge of No Return,' from our family's visit to the DMZ soon after our 1960 arrival in Seoul. Several years later, living in Daegu where my father worked in the mission hospital, I scared my 10-year-old self by imagining that my parents were wearing masks, underneath which they were actually North Korean spies. The residents of the other half of a divided Korea were my childhood version of the boogeyman.
"Like most South Koreans, we foreigners got used to the bellicose threats and posturing of the DPRK. I was in high school at Seoul Foreign School the day in 1968 when thirty-one North Korean commandos came across the DMZ on a mission to assassinate President Park Chung-Hee. They got within half a mile of the Blue House before they were apprehended. The whole city was on alert and there was a charged atmosphere at school, knowing that the infiltrators had been moving through the city within three miles of us. Afterwards, we shared rumors with that excited sense of having been on the edge of the action. One story claimed that when the soldiers came over the mountain range they were disoriented by the brilliant lights of Seoul; they'd been told South Korea had no electricity."
The piece includes recommendations of books and videos on contemporary North Korea - though there's nothing yet for young people. I hope to change that.

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