For the sake of my trip, I did quite a bit of research on the changing diplomatic relationships between North and South Korea but I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the topic. Before leaving Missoula I concluded for myself that reunification on the Korean peninsula would create one, unified country. I thought that’s what Koreans wanted.
By speaking with my sources and Koreans I met, I found that the opinions on reunification vary and are influenced by a myriad of factors. Overwhelming, though, I have found that South Koreans do not necessarily want to be one with their northern counterparts — they seek peace instead.
This came as a surprise to me and to some of my colleagues on our study-abroad trip. After listening to people’s opinions, it started to make more sense.
The rationale that was presented to me could be separated by age in relation to the start of the Korean War. The Korean War officially began in 1950 and after three years of combat an armistice was signed between the two countries. Since the war hasn’t officially ended the two countries are still technically at war. This spring, leaders from North and South Korea met and announced that they seek to establish peace on the peninsula.
One of our sources, Annie Pedret, a professor at Seoul National University, explained that peace seemed unattainable to older generations and with each new generation, young Koreans became less interested in the matter. Time alienated the two Koreas, drifting further apart. Now, Koreans have a new hope for peace, but the years of alienation have turned many Koreans off to a single country.
Throughout my time in South Korea I’ve found it’s better to ask questions rather than assume you know the answers.
Blog and photo by Skylar Rispens