Ask A North Korean

It seems like January is the month when my thoughts are steered toward the plight of the people of North Korea, possibly the most brutalized and subjugated people of the entire world (not that brutal human rights violations is meant to be some sort of contest, of course).

Last year I went through a pretty heavy period of North Korea reading: the most powerful book I read was Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. This year, I’m deep into the Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, which is a fictional novel but nevertheless haunting and powerful.

It frustrates me that North Korea is something we don’t talk about as a culture, aside from whatever bonehead things Dennis Rodman has been saying. It may well be that the cultural fatigue induced by Afghanistan and Iraq have curbed the national desire for interventionist politics. Who would want to talk about getting involved with North Korea after the whole Iraq mess? Especially when North Korea has nuclear weapons. Sure, they may not be very good nuclear weapons, but when it comes to nukes, I find the distinction between excellent and decent is rather inconsequential to those beneath their shadows. They also have a powerful mostly-ally in China. So intervention isn’t really a feasible thing.

This is troubling from a humanitarian perspective. What’s the moral course of action in this instance? Iraq was a sobering lesson, regardless of the reasons why it was fought in the first place. I don’t have any answers, only concerns. It is a question where idealism and pragmatism clash directly. No one deserves to live with the kind of oppression and brutality that North Koreans face every day, though. Regardless of the fact that I don’t have a solution, I’m confident on that much.

One thing that I’ve found particular powerful and poignant is hearing the stories of North Koreans who have escaped their country’s regime. Ask a North Korean is an interesting column written by a few North Koreans who have managed to escape the country. Their words are sometimes sad, sometimes amusing, but always powerful. The constant narrative that I found the most striking was how often the desire for Korean reunification is expressed.

I don’t know whose responsibility reunification should be. I can’t help but feel that the US and Russia are responsible for the current division of the country and should take measures to undo the damage that was done. Is that more Western interventionist political posturing? Maybe. Perhaps it’s up to South Korea and North Koreans themselves to pull the country back together and oust the Kim regime.

I don’t know. I’m an outsider, just watching and listening and reading. I certainly don’t have any great insights. I certainly don’t know what the right thing is to do. But I feel that something should be done and it bothers me that more people don’t talk about this particular issue.

Getting Back To It

The difficult part about the end of December is that the multiple of holidays rolling into one another tend to create a feeling of inertia that makes it difficult to return to normal. But now the holidays are well and truly over; it’s long past time for the fake tree to come down and get stuffed back into its box for another year. Time to dust off the blog and think about what I want to say.

Originally, I planned on doing a post about what 2013 meant to me. A lot of people are going on the record as saying that 2013 was the worst year ever. That might be true for them; I don’t think it’s true for me. 2013 had its ups and its downs, although overall, I think there were more ups.

What will 2014 be? I’m hoping it will be a good year. I’m going to try and publish my book (at long last). I have a few other writing and editing related opportunities that I can’t discuss in detail (out of respect to the privacy of the client) but that have me very excited. I cashed my first check that I earned from editing last week and it was glorious.

The urge to spend it all on a new laptop instead of building up my ravaged savings account was almost overwhelming. Right now, the desire to save is winning . . . but we’ll see how long that lasts.

One thing I’ve been discussing with myself is the direction I want to take the blog. Over the past year, I tended to write about whatever struck my fancy . . . and that included a lot of political and opinion posts. I’m uncertain whether I’ll continue that trend. It did provide me with something to talk about but it also meant that sometimes I went looking for things to get annoyed at just so I could have something to write about. I think that tendency skewed much of my writing towards the Cynical end of the spectrum. If 2013 was the Cynical year, I feel compelled to make 2014 the Idealist year.

Expect posts about adorable kittens and puppies falling asleep EVERY DAY. Ye be warned.

We Remember

It’s been three years.

January 8, 2011. I didn’t take any pictures. I’ve only told my own little part of the story to a handful of people. It’s not something I really want to write down. Not because I want to forget; I won’t and can’t. But it’s not something I feel comfortable talking about, even now, perhaps even less so now than in previous years.

There are some stories that need to be shared and told.

There are some stories that just need to be carried within one’s self and remembered.

Regardless of whether this was something as deeply personal for you as it was for me or if it was just another sad, bloody headline, it’s something worth remembering. The names of those slain and those who survived are worth remembering.

The only name not worth remembering is, unfortunately enough, the most memorable. But then, villains always do get the most press.

Regardless, I remember. Three years. And counting.