homeKorea North travel guideKorea North travelogues > North and South Korea
Korea North guide
Traveler café 
Travel directory
Last updated : Nov 2009
North and South Korea
Rating: (5) (5 votes)

Korea North and South
March 10th 2005

I live in a strange place. It's now common knowledge that the Megalomaniac to the North of me has a nuclear weapons program. Korea is so strange. I was talking to my students about North and South Korea and asking about the country being divided. Now to me, it seems that a country divided, with two separate heads of state would be considered to be two separate countries. But my students and many of the other Koreans I know would give you a puzzled look if you talked about North and South Korea as being two countries. They still think of themselves as one. Some of my students even have family ties in Korea North.

The whole situation is heartbreaking and mind-boggling. It's so strange to think that 50 miles away from this computer where I sit in comfort (that's the distance from Peoria to Bloomington for all you people back home, just to put it in context) there are thousands of people starving. There are orphans with distended bellies with mudcaked feet. Many of them are rounded up into these "hostels" where they are left to die so they won't create a bad image. There are some people so hungry that they resort to eating human flesh. At the same time, I live and work in a country that has such amazing technology. The internet here far surpasses what you get at home in the States. Cell phones that are common here are the high end phones back home. My students (who go to school and two or three private academies, take piano and violin lessons, play soccer, do taekwondo) come in with arsenals of snack food in their bags. They play computer games for hours on end (Koreans are some of the best gamers in the world). Their only concern is getting into a good school and for guys they also have to worry about their mandatory two years in the service. It's unfathomable, the difference between North and South.

What's maddening is how few people even know about the condition of the Korea Northn people. It's so secluded. People know that there are nukes there and people don't have much food, but we can't see into this Hermit Kingdom as many refer to it. Anything that comes out of Pyongyang is fake. There are dazzling shows of dancing children in brightly dressed clothes, singing about their love for Kim Jong Il. Pyongyang is advertised as a bustling metropolis, but the streets are empty. They claim to be growing in the area of industry but 70% of the factories there are not in service because people are too hungry to work. They've stripped away the equipment and sold it to buy food. Instead of growing crops, the government forces farmers to grow opium for illegal drug trade. Kim Jong Il blames Korea North's famine on flood, draught and sanctions against the country. Korea North has received more international aid than any other country and all of that food goes to feed the military, not the starving familes with children. There are prison camps where people are slaughtered, yet the government denies their existence.

It's all sick. Sick sick sick.

And here I am, eating Sun Chips and drinking coffee. I'm downloading the latest episodes of my favorite TV shows. I just bought a nice new cage for my pet hamster. She's snuggled up in her little nest of wood chips, her belly full of the sunflower seeds and carrots I gave her as a snack. Tonight I go to bed resting on two pillows and snuggled up beneath a down comforter. But 50 miles north of here, people are dying.