Ten Obscure Things about N. and S. Korea That Will Interest You
By Dallas Darling
Submitted by Author
Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017
|What’s the unfinished “Pyramid of Pyongyang” or the scariest places in S. Korea? And did you know that the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between N. and S. Korea is actually a boon for wildlife, or that twice a year the ocean recedes to create a land bridge between two islands? With all the news about a possible World War III between N. and S. Korea-which is backed by the U.S., it might be of interest that there are still peculiar places and things that inspire our sense of wonder and awe. What’s more, and just as truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, obscurity may be stranger than the obvious too.
At Least Some Inhabitants Are at Peace with the Earth and Natural Selection
Although the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 left the Asian peninsula with many environmental scars, the heavily guarded 160-mile-long, 2.5-mile wide Demilitarized Zone is a haven for endangered species. Sixty endangered species between warring N. and S. Korea are free to roam around the DMZ, including the Asiatic Black Bear, Amur leopard, Siberian Musk Deer, and Red-crowned Crane. What’s more, naturalists are already working on ways to protect the nature preserve. For instance, the Korean Tourism Organization offers DMZ nature tours, marketing it as “The Peace and Life Zone.”(1)
And just as wildlife and vegetation seems better adapted to our earthly home and natural selection, (Whoever heard of a chimpanzee or raven develop tools that could destroy the Earth many times over?), so is physical geography. Twice a year the waters separating Jindo and Modo islands in S. Korea recede, creating a causeway almost 2 miles long and 120 feet wide. Today, visitors can even cross over the momentary land bridge to meet one another halfway and celebrate its mythical creation. An elderly woman evidently prayed to the sea god that split the waters as she fled a pack of tigers.(2)
Conduits of Fear and the Past
Speaking of unification, what the U.S. fears most is that N. Korea will use their missiles as a means to reunite the Asian peninsula. Meanwhile, N. Korea is already preparing for that day by digging tunnels underneath the DMZ as a means of uniting the two nations. Known as the Tunnels of Aggressions, N. Koreans began to secretly dig subterranean passageways to function as conduits for an invasion. Although only four have been found, it’s rumored a dozen exist. In addition to poring over maps and searching for clues, “tunnel hunters” in S. Korea continue to search for secret passages by drilling holes.
As S. Korea, the U.S., and Japan meet today, N. Korea will mark its 85th anniversary of the founding of its Korean People’s Army. Two other things they’ll recognize are the Jeju Uprising and Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. From 1948 to 1949, the S. Korean government conducted a brutal anticommunist campaign to suppress an attempted uprising on the island, killing up to 30,000 people. Bodies of massacred victims are consequently still being discovered in mass graves, the latest near Jeju International Airport. S. Korea finally apologized 60 years after the rebellion.(3)
Wars and Invasions Still Haunt and Torture N. and S. Korea
As for the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, N. Koreans will observe a 85-foot-wide mural depicting Eternal President Kim Il-sung smiling and waving as he leads a battalion of soldiers and civilians, all of them gazing at him with awe. One can’t help to notice a rosy-cheeked young girl holding a bunch of colorful balloons. They’ll also watch movies of the controversial sinking of the USS Baltimore, and the 1950 Battle of Taejon, where U.S. troops withdrew resulting in a tactical victory. N. Korean fighters will also be shown hoisting flags and surging forward while Americans stumble and surrender.(4)
Just as interesting, and fearful, as N. Korea’s Deadman Switches (EMP and Chemical-Biological Weapons attacks) is S. Korea’s Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital and Yongsan Garrison. The hospital, for instance, is known for its questionable and excruciating experiments on patients and is considered one of the most haunted places in S. Korea. Meanwhile, Youngsan Garrison, situated in Seoul, was home to the Imperial Japanese Army that colonized Korea in the early 1900’s. Spirits of tortured, mutilated, and burned alive prisoners are said to still scream and haunt its surroundings.
Pyramids, Potokem Villages, Ghost Towns, and what China Really Fears
On the other side of the border, which at some point might also have Russian troops and heavy military equipment if reports are correct,(5) you can’t help but notice the Ryugyong Hotel or Kijon-Dong. Located in N. Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, the Pyramid of Pyongyang’s 105-story triangular skyscraper sits unfinished, despite its scheduled opening 20 years ago. The Soviet Union’s collapse, economic blockades, and famines hampered its opening. They still do. There’ also Kijong-Dong, a model Peace Village along the DMZ. Some say, however, it’s just as uninhabited as the hotel.(6)
S. Koreans are still just as upset over Yeonpyeong Island as they were when President Donald Trump recently commented that their nation was once “part of China.” Following the settling of N. and S. Korea, it was agreed the island belonged to the South. But in 2010 N. Korea started shooting at and shelling surrounding houses, causing many locals to leave. In effect, bomb-torn villages look like ghost towns. Concerning President Trump’s gaffe, he’s already been corrected by both nations. Now, one must wonder if really knows that what China fears the most is a reunited Korea under U.S. control!
The Paradox of Obscurity and Complexity
Adding the “China Equation” into N. and S. Korea’s geopolitical past and present, it’s clear N. and S. Koreans are no strangers to obscurity and complexity. Their peninsula has indeed been known for great ideas and innovations. But it’s also been a flashpoint for invasions and devastating wars. And yet, history and geography has shown that the unexpected can happen, and that the greatest movements for peace and understanding can be summons from the very shadows of obscurity and difficult complexities. For now, however, it appears that Korea’s fate is still too obscure and complex.
Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John‘s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.worldnews.com. You can read more of Dallas’ writings at www.beverlydarling.com and wn.com//dallasdarling.
(1) Foer, Joshua and Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. New York, New York: Workman Publishing Company, 2016., p. 163.
(2) Ibid., p. 167.
(3) www.wikipedia.com. See “Jeju Island.”
(4) Foer, Joshua and Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders., p. 166.
(5) www.antiwar.com. “Russia Sends Troops, Equipment to North Korea Border Amid War Fears,” by Jason Ditz., April 20, 2017.
(6) Foer, Joshua and Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders., p. 163.
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