A 40-year-old man was recently shot as he tried to swim from South Korea into North Korea. Say what? I'm not a huge news person. I have a basic understanding of foreign affairs, but I'm no political expert. That said, even I knew that this headline didn't sound right.
I knew that North Korea and South Korea don't get along, and that North Korea is a rough place to live. So why would someone want to get in there? To escape arrest maybe? I mean, North Korea is ruled by a crazy dude who thinks he's god, and South Korea is the ancestral home of Margaret Cho and the birthplace of awesome K-Pop -- exhibit Psy.
Then I realized that a country divided down the middle is something I can't begin to comprehend. Can you imagine having no idea what's going on over your country's border? Or being separated from your family? What's the source of all this tension? I put together some factoids on both countries that make the whole deal a little less confusing.
1. The two countries have been separate since 1953.
2. South Korea is all about capitalism -- Clothes! Music! Travel!
3. North Korea is a communist country with a long history of famine and drought.
4. North Korea's fiercely guarded borders make it almost impossible to leave.
5. Their leader Kim Jong-Un is essentially a dictator. He keeps the nation cut off from foreign aid. No wonder folks are fleeing for freer pastures. It reminds me a lot of East and West Berlin back in the days before the wall came down (Oh David Hasselhoff, sing your heart out!) Only here the stakes are even higher...
7. But, they aren't part of the nuclear proliferation treaty like the U.S.
8. They continually make threats against other nations that are entirely empty. They are too economically weak to be a real threat to the U.S.
Sadly, they are definitely a threat to their own people, who are dying because of the divide. It's tragic that one man had to be taken down by the "freer" country because of the North's total insanity. It's an unbelievable situation, and a military conflict erupting between the two countries doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility.
Can you imagine living in a country split down the middle?
Image via Carrie Musgrave/Flickr