Whenever North Korea is in the news, and lately that's been pretty frequently, I'm struck by how the media talks about the country as if it were separate - a truly alien and different entity from industrialized, modern, democratic South Korea. And no doubt there is much to separate - over a half century of disparate ideologies, influences and, of course, the DMZ, two and a half miles of the most militarized border in the world.
But if there is any evidence left that Korea is truly one nation waiting for reunification, it is the thousands of Koreans cruelly separated from their family members all these years. Children separated from parents, brothers from sisters. These tragedies are nearly mythic, part of the many narratives of war that our grandparents and parents have carried with them all these years. Over time they become nearly irrelevant, their potency diluted against the mongering of missile testing, sanctions, politics.
But this week, those stories are being told again. 97 families were reunited in the North Korean mountain resort of Keumgang and 99 will be reunited next week. These are families - Korean families - able to embrace each other again after decades of separation. They are the fortunate ones. There are thousands of families who applied who were not picked for this round (and hopefully there will be more) of reunification meetings.
I've read that many people in South Korea are ambivalent - or at least concerned - about reunification, whether it will ever happen and even, whether they want it to, considering the possible economic ramifications. But I know most Koreans still yearn for unification. They still know, despite all their modern differences and latent ideological and political hostilities, that the 38th parallel is truly just an arbitrary line drawn in the sand of one nation. They are not truly North or South, they are simply Korean and one day will be so in name too.
- Nina Moon