I am currently sitting in a dark room at a hostel in Seoul, South Korea. Trying my best to recover from an exhausting day of warfare study. Earlier this morning I looked into North Korea with binoculars, seeing their flag shaking defiantly in the wind.

DMZ At the 38th parallel. The DMZ is the world’s most heavily fortified border.

Korea is a country tragically divided into two parts, separating families and friends. Barb wire, mines and armed guards are part of the country-scene here. Between the two is the Demilitarized Zone. Our guide politely advised us to “please stay away from the land mines”. I had no trouble at all in following that advice.

Freedom Bridge The only bridge connecting North Korea with South Korea.

There is a concept in Korea called “han”, a feeling of collective oppression. In some ways it seems similar to the Turkish “hüzün” or the Portuguese “saudade”, but the wishful longing is replaced by a more desperate agony.

Later in the afternoon, I went back to Seoul and visited the War Memorial, a vast area filled with the bloodstained history of battle and strife. The halls told the sad story of killing, slaughtering and pillaging in the region. Outside the building, a lot of vessels were on display including Sherman tanks, B52 bombers, AAC missiles and more objects created by humans to kill humans.

Why is the human history so extremely focused on bloodshed? Is it really that necessary to attack other people just because they have chosen to live on another side of some man-made fictional border on a map? The desire to divide people is a familiar theme I’ve encountered many times before. In Berlin there are still traces of the Wall left. When I crossed the island of Cyprus, the tension between the northern Turkish part and the southern Greek part could be felt in the air. And so on.

How fragile we are.


  • avatar
    05 Oct, 2008

    Sounds like an emotional day..

  • avatar
    06 Oct, 2008

    Very much so. That’s why I devoted the day after (today) to devouring Coldstone ice cream and looking at cute sea otters. :)

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