Will They or Won’t They: The Trump-Un Dance

I’ve been following the on-again, off-again US-North Korean summit news with much interest, like, I suppose, is much of the world.  For me, it’s more than just the issues of global peace that interest me, though those are, without doubt, the most important part about this possible diplomatic break-through. My interest is more than just as a casual observer of the daily news.

We’ve had the privilege of getting to know hundreds of wonderful South Koreans throughout the years, so I’ve heard firsthand many times over what it would mean for the Korean peninsula to be unified. (But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I think we’d all settle for peaceful with a lack of war mongering.) South Korean students are some of the most respectful and hardworking students I’ve ever taught, and I taught hundreds of them when I was living in Malaysia. In addition, we were served as house parents for several South Korean international students at a private boarding school in Virginia for two years. Those were terrific years. I never played so much ping-pong in my life. My affinity for South Korea runs deep, and even more so when my daughter married her high school sweetheart who happened to be South Korean. And now, my first grandson is half South Korean. So I feel I can claim a tiny personal stake to the political posturing which is going on.

So the question is, will they? Do the political dance, that is.

My gut tells me it will happen. Maybe not on June 12, but there was too much show from North Korea to completely back out of it now. What I mean by show is that they have shockingly showed their hand (and it hasn’t proven to be a scam yet) that they are interested in peace. But this is also why I wasn’t surprised this week when the North Korean minister started bashing Mike Pence and seemingly contradicting the weeks of goodwill which had preceded.

This is a classic posturing of saving-face, and building themselves up, the same way they have been tossing hot rhetoric for years. If the DPRK hierarchy completely fell over on themselves and paved a perfect path for Trump to play the hero, that would have been surprising.  I think it was the change in perception, both in country and out of country, was moving too quickly, and they had to remind the world that they still have a huge army and a heavy payload.  So this backtrack didn’t surprise me at all.

How should Trump have reacted? That’s obviously debatable. If I had been advising him, I wouldn’t have pulled the plug on the meeting so quickly, and would have allowed the DPRK one more round of tough rhetoric as long as the other steps towards the meeting were being followed. Trump decided differently and pulled out right away. Was it the right move? Impossible to know because there are no right moves here. Now word is that the meeting still could be on, so who knows.

This whole situation has the Democrats not really knowing what to do and how to respond. It’s that awkward, “Darn-it, I’m not in power” look which makes every minority party seem a little pathetic. Of course, they criticized him for agreeing to meet with Un. And then when Trump pulled out, they criticized him for that.

Regardless of political stripes or citizenship, I’m hoping we collectively can hope for a lasting peaceful solution to the conundrum on the Korean peninsula.  Who cares who gets the credit. I’d shake anyone’s hand who had a role in bringing something like this about.

I’m rooting for this because of all of my South Korean friends. May you know lasting peace in your lifetime.

Hopefully, it will start soon.


Propaganda Borders: N. Korea & S. Korea vs. Ohio & Pennsylvania

Along the 38th parallel on the Korean Peninsula is a well fortified DMZ, which separates the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with the Republic of South Korean. Since the cease fire in 1954, the two brotherly states have been starring down the barrels of each other’s weapons, watching and waiting for the slightest flinch of aggression from the opposite side.

Meanwhile, 12,000 miles away on the 74 degree line of longitude, two rival states, the Quakers from Pennsylvania, and the Buckeyes of Ohio, square off in a ruthless game of who can up who in trying to lure the residents of the other side into their fold.

These two contentious borders of the world stand as reminders of how ideological differences can divide even a homogeneous people group.

Let’s look a little closer at the two battle zones.

On the northern side of the 38th parallel, North Korea has constructed a propaganda town, with large houses and attractive architecture. These small mansions are meant to show the wealth and prosperity of the North Korean way of governance.

On the South Korean side, they constructed a large flag bowl to proudly display the South Korean and American joint colors.

Not to be outdone, the North Korean side constructed the highest flag pole in the world to say, basically, that we can build anything  higher than you.

It seems that North Korea is winning the propaganda war because of their impressive deft displays of construction. But on closer inspection, one will notice that the massive houses and apartment complexes are simply facades. Fake. No one lives there. They are merely propaganda shells of properties merely trying to lure duped South Koreans across the border. As far as I can tell, exactly zero people from South Korea have tried to emigrate northward.

Likewise on the 74 degree line of longitude (that does not have the same ring as 38th parallel, does it?) the sneaky Ohioans have stealthily ripped a page from the North Korean playbook by trying to impress Pennsylvanians through shock and awe driving moments when crossing the border.

The Ohio-PA border class happens along US Route 422 which heads from New Castle, PA towards Youngstown, OH. One can not help but notice the difference when your vehicle crosses the border. The bumpy, bouncy PA side immediately gives way to the most beautiful four lane, newly paved, dark black, yellow-striped asphalt, that makes one feel like they are floating on puffy clouds. Pennsylvanians have been know to want to denounce their state-ship once crossing the border at this particular juncture. Many stop their vehicles within a mile of the border and call home, “Ma, pack up the pick-up. We’re heading to the land of smooth asphalt. Ohio! Don’t worry. We’ll figure out what a buckeye is when we get there.”

It’s easy to be fooled because this is an example of a propaganda border. Because what old Jed-let’s-move-to-Ohio-with-our-guns doesn’t know, that merely one mile further down the road, that Ohio heavenly ride turns into a bucking bronco ride with potholes rivaling the road to hell itself. Hades-holes, I believe they are called. (At least that’s what Pennsylvanians call them.)

It’s a dirty trick that Ohio plays, pulling in the gullible only to laugh as their car bottoms out and disappears into the massive sinkholes.

Ruthless propaganda games are being played around the world. Remember to not let appearances fool you if you intend to emigrate to another state.