27 April 2004

A Cold Day for a Cold War: Part IV – Overlooking the DMZ and back to Reality

After the infiltration tunnel, it was on to the final stop – Dora Observatory, which has a wonderful view of Kaesong – unfortunately photographs are not allowed from anywhere near the edge where one can see. Instead there is a “photo line” about three five meters back from the wall where pictures can be taken from – an impossibility unless you are like seven feet tall. If there had to be a disappointment of the day, that was it. From the observatory one could see the new road and rail links between the two Koreas, Kaesong and the new Kaesong inter-Korean industrial zone, a really tall statue of Kim Il Sung and the train that was knocked off the tracks at the opening of the Korean War – and hasn’t moved since.

After Dora it was back to Seoul and the real world. It is interesting and somewhat frightening to think that the greater Seoul metropolitan area comprises about half of South Korea’s total population – around 22 million people in and around the city. This is nearly the entire population of the North. But Seoul area is basically slated for devastation of the North ever decided to launch an attack or reprise an attack on the North. The city is just too close to the border. Pyongyang isn’t joking when they threaten they can turn Seoul into a “sea of fire.” BUT, North Korea has no intention of attacking, as the counter strike would end the existence of North Korea as a nation.

Back in Seoul I had coffee (see, my moratorium is off, after two years, while I am in Korea) with a Seoul correspondent who has lived here five years. Some interesting stories to share. We were also briefly (well, if like 20 or 30 minutes is brief) interviewed by University girls working on a project on the internationalization of English. They were all English language and literature majors. It was a bit funny because they expected two foreigners who had little experience in Korea or with communicating with Koreans and instead got the two of us.

Well, then it was back to the subway, back “home” for the evening, and back to work as well. Tomorrow I have a dinner appointment, Thursday a morning appointment, and somewhere in there I’d like to get to Insadong or to the palaces. I am on a quest for a business card carrying case with a tiger or an old Korean design etched on the cover – but not too expensive. It will be my birthday present, a little belated.

On a totally unrelated note, the Uri Party has come out of its meeting today with a decision not to really name a party ideology but instead to say it is an inclusive, forward-looking reform-minded party, as opposed to the GNP, which the Uri party characterized as Cold War conservatives. If the Uri Party can hold together, and if Roh is exonerated in the Constitutional Court (something that seems increasingly likely), then there may be some changes in Korea, initially in media laws but later in economics, chaebol and labor relations and defense posture.

Oh, one final note before calling it a night. The North Koreans are not the only ones who like to appear bigger and taller. South Korea’s famous (infamous?) “63 story building,” the tallest in South Korea, is actually a bit misnamed, as three of those 63 stories are below ground.

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