This year, SSU won a prize for its efforts toward reunification. Truce has been more than 60 years, which is not a peace treaty, so the country is in the state of war, legally. Reunification has been dealt seriously in politics, education, economy and in various fields and it is one of the major issues our society is facing. ST introduces about the regime of the North Korea, people crossing boarders and the efforts SSU is making toward education on reunification. .........................................Ed
Have you ever imagined people being taken to prison in front of your house? They have just taken pictures in front of your house. The soldiers said that it was illegal and took them away. Do you know where this is? Have you ever heard of an American citizen incarcerated due to a political propaganda poster? He allegedly stole the propaganda sign from a staff-only area in the hotel during his travel. As a result, he has been convicted and sentenced to 15 years. Do you know where this is? Have you ever heard of ‘ Kotjebi ’? It is a North Korean slang for homeless North Korean children. This place is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It is also called North Korea. There are many affairs in North Korea that we find difficult to understand.
The Economic Aspects of North Korea
North Korea is a socialist country. They have maintained a partially closed and centralized economy since the 1940s. Since what is called “Great famine”, North Koreans have formed a large informal economy, which is called Jangmadang. It is a North Korean version of farmer’s markets and local markets. The gap between the rich and the poor has widened in North Korea due to the Jangmadang . The appearance of Pyongyang and that of other regions are very different. Pyongyang is the capital of North Korea with large buildings, wide paved roads, and a large stadium. The North Korean government constructed a fifty-threestory apartment in Pyongyang . They are proud of this high-rise apartment and broadcast its grandiosity. On the other hand, every other region in North Korea, except perhaps the cities, lives in poverty. Furthermore, there are still impoverished areas in the cities. The North Korean defectors tell us that thebetter areas to live in are the coast and the boundary area between North Korea and China. There is a facilitated area wherein the movement of the capital is faster than the other regions. There are many ‘Kotjebi’. These abandoned children bolt down their food because they are always worried that someone else may take their meal.
Education of North Korea
How could North Korea last the dictatorship for three generations? The answer is brainwashing education. The government internalizes Kim Il-sung, Kim Jongil, and Kim Jong-un as their sacred heroes. The people are brainwashed starting from when they are 5 years old. The moment students enter school, they are educated on the biographies of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un. In addition, the people are required to join certain organizations. Everybody should join the Boy Scouts during their childhood and the Kim Il-sung Young Socialists Alliance during adolescence. Later on, they receive their education by joining the female union, Agricultural Workers Union, and so on. All North Koreans are brainwashed throughout their entire life. Brainwashing education is still prevalent. The government brainwash their people even when they are at home. The law requires the people to put pictures of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un in their house. In addition, the government also places these pictures in every public location, which means that the people are brainwashed wherever they go. During the 90s, the government oppressed every religion except for its own, and after the 90s, the government announced that they were allowing more religions, but it appeared that it could only be applied to the Pyongyang citizens. The government still suppresses people for treason if they own a Bible.
The Story of the North Korean Defectors
How would you feel if one of your family members was going to pass away, and no matter how hard you tried, you could not do anything but wait? This is a common story among the North Korean defectors. Even when they entered South Korea or another foreign country, they live with their scars. The movie ‘Crossing’ tell us the story of a North Korean family. Here is the story of the movie ‘Crossing’. There was a family of three, namely, Yong-soo (father), Yonghwa (mother), and Joon (son). Yong-soo used to be a representative soccer player of Hamkyeong-namdo, North Korea. However, he led a life of poverty for many years, and the family lived in a small coal town in Hamkyeong-nam-do. One day, Yong-hwa fell ill because of tuberculosis and pregnancy. Due to their condition, they could not afford to buy an anti-tuberculosis drug. As a result, Yong-soo decided to illegally enter China to buy medicine for his wife. However, once he crossed over to China, he found himself working as an illegal immigrant under the constant threat of being captured by the Chinese authorities and deported back to North Korea. There was also a moment when he was almost captured, wherein he lost his money. One day, he went to South Korea for an interview because someone told him that if he does, he could earn money. He did not want to go to South Korea, but he had to because he was already labeled as a traitor in North Korea. Meanwhile, his wife had already passed away, thereby leaving their son homeless and wandering around trying to find his father. As soon as he arrived in Korea, Yongsoo tried to find his son. He finally came into contact with his son through a broker, and he tried to get Joon to South Korea. However, Joon got lost on the way to his father and, eventually, he died. The movie ‘Crossing’ is inspired by a real story of a North Korean defector, and this kind of story is actually happening in the country. In addition, ‘Crossing’ is not the story of just one family, but all of the North Korean defectors. For example, the women who escaped from North Korea to South Korea were interviewed on the air in the famous talk show, ‘Now, Time to See You Again’. One of them talked about her son whom she left behind. She lost him when she crossed over the Tumen River, which is located in a North Korean border with China. At the Tumen River, she and her son were kidnapped for human trafficking. After that, she passed out for a while and then she lost her son until now. She revealed that she did not know if her son was still alive. As a result of the trauma, she cried all night long even today. She could not help but think about her son. In light of this, even if the defectors escaped from North Korea, their grief and suffering is far from being over. In other words, most of the North Korean defectors are still suffering from these traumas, and they even find it difficult to adjust to a foreign country. ‘Crossing’ is still happening. According to the Ministry of Unification, 1,276 North Korean defectors entered South Korea in 2015. In addition, a cumulative number of 25,663 defectors entered South Korea from 2003 to 2015. The Soongsilians are approximately 16,778; therefore, the number of defectors is far from being small. In South Korea, there are plenty of policies for the defectors, such as the early resettlement funds, employment service, education service, and so on. However, these cannot be considered as a solution for their emotional scars. Perhaps the real medicine for these people is the reunification of Korea.
The Idea behind the SSU; Reunification program
SSU is a reunification-oriented university with a number of unification programs. One of the most renowned programs is the “Peace and Reunification in Korean Peninsula”. The Soongsilians are obligated to go to the “Soongsil Unification Leadership Camp”, where they receive an education on Soongsil Unification Leadership Training Institute for four days. ST had an interview with Professor Cho Eun-sik, who is a theology professor in SSU. ST: Why does SSU aim for reunification? Prof. Cho: SSU is currently located at Sangdodong, Seoul. However, SSU was originally located in Pyongyang. SSU fosters many national leaders and Christian leaders. It is the only university that opposed the pressure of visiting a Japanese shrine, and the school was voluntarily closed down in order to guard the faith and spirit of our people. Due to the Korean War, the university was rebuilt in Seoul. Nevertheless, we are proud of being a national university in the North Korean land. Therefore, I think it is natural that SSU is known for being a unification-oriented university.
ST: In what way do you think SSU is contributing to the reunification? Prof. Cho: I think SSU does not have to argue on the reunification topics, gradual reunification and absorbing reunification. SSU just aims for a peaceful reunification. The goal of SSU’s reunification education is to train qualified personnel for the reunification and reconciliation of the north and south leaders. For this reason, SSU requires the first years to take reunification classes and receive the unification education in the Mungyeong SSU Unification Training Institute. The reunification should be arranged by everyone, and not just by the politicians or the military.
ST: What is SSU’s plan after the reunification of Korea? Prof. Cho: As you can see in the case of the reunification of Germany, they prepared the reunification minutely, but they suffered from unexpected difficulties. The most important factor for a successful reunification is brotherly harmony. SSU will have to embrace the North Korean people, with brotherly love without making them feel alienated. Moreover, we should help the North Koreans understand the new politics and economic system. We should help them overcome the difficulty of adapting to a new system. And if possible, we should take back the Pyongyang Soongsil.