In preparation for their trip, the participants were required “to read a tremendous amount about modern Korean history, including Japanese colonization and the Korean War, as well as current issues facing North Korea, such as the nuclear crisis, food and energy shortages, and human rights,” indicated Ahn. Emphasizing intensive study as a major component of the program, Christine Hong, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley and a member of this year’s delegation, stated: “DEEP is not a tour for curious overseas Koreans who merely wish to sightsee in North Korea. It’s a serious educational commitment that entails critical inquiry beyond Cold War and Bush-era caricatures of North Korea.”
For the Korean American and zainichi members of the delegation, exposure to North Korea through their DEEP experience enabled them to reflect upon and to question the narrowness of their identification with and orientation toward South Korea. Miho Kim, a director at the DataCenter, a NGO that conducts social justice research and one of two zainichi in the delegation, observed: “For those of us who have inherited a legacy of suspicion and fear toward North Korea, this trip represented the first opportunity that we’ve had, as people of Korean descent, to connect with North Korea not as a regime or a perceived global threat but as another place in the world where people live, work, raise children, practice sports, go to school, sing together, and go on dates.”
In addition to participating in study sessions and exchanges with scholars, farmers, workers, and students in North Korea, the members of the delegation visited sites whose revolutionary histories pre-date 1945, the year when the Korean peninsula was divided. “While reading Kim Il Sung’s essay on the participation of women in the anti-Japanese independence movement, I learned about a fighter whom he called ‘Washing-Club Woman’ in reference to her using a laundry club to bash in the head of a Japanese policeman so as to steal his weapons and join the frontlines of the guerrilla struggle. I was so moved to discover that North Korea commemorates this amazing resistance fighter at the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery in Pyongyang,” stated Kei Fischer, a zainichi member of the delegation and an elementary school teacher.
Having taken part in a peace delegation to North Korea, the Bay Area participants express a renewed commitment to establishing genuine security on the Korean peninsula. “While in North Korea, I couldn’t help but recall ‘Lim-jin River,’ a song written by the poet Se-Yong Park as he stood on what is today North Korean soil. Calling out to the birds overhead, Park asks, ‘Please, messengers of freedom who know no borders, tell me who divided our motherland?’ Half a century later, the task has fallen to my generation to secure a healing resolution to the enduring trauma of national division,” Kim stated. Echoing this sentiment, Ahn asserted the timeliness of peace advocacy for Korea: “In light of the financial crisis and its bloated military budget, the U.S. has greater incentive than before to sign a peace treaty with North Korea, which DEEP alumni will advocate for in the coming years.”
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 (7-9 p.m.)
Eastside Arts Alliance
2277 International Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94606
Thursday, November 20, 2008 (7-9 p.m.)