We Are One
Dangerous, isolated, and repressive. Growing up in Seoul and later in Portland, these were the words I was used to hearing about north Korea (or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea –DPRK) from my parents, media, and my peers. The image of north Korea was portrayed as being vastly different from south Korea (or the Republic of Korea –ROK). Due to this stark contrast between the two nations, I wanted to understand north Korea beyond the dominant narrative perpetuated by the US and the ROK. Furthermore, I wanted to know what was important enough to divide a nation and separate families for over 60 years. Like many Koreans, my family members were separated from each other and their hometowns after Korea was divided. I was not satisfied with an explanation that blamed north Korea’s “communism” as the reason for this division and absolved south Korea of any responsibility. There had to be more to this story.
My curiosity and desire to hear the “other side of the story” led me to KEEP (Korean Exposure & Education Program). KEEP, a cultural exchange program for people of Korean descent in North America, works toward the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula. I was honored to be selected as a participant in the 10th KEEP-DPRK delegation to north Korea. Through this rare opportunity, I wanted to experience and learn about north Korea outside of books, articles, and CNN news coverage. I embarked on a journey to begin formulating my own thoughts on the DPRK and to better realize how my understanding of the divided Koreas affected how I envisioned reunification for the peninsula.