Should be writing my essay on Imperial Japan, but....
I feel like blogging about my day. :D Particularly, my meeting with my professor. It kinda got to me.
So a couple weeks ago, I asked a professor that taught one of my Asian poli-sci classes if he needed a research assistant. Lucky me, he’s gonna write a book and needs does need a student to help him find info about North Korean-US security relations since 1991. Oh. My. Goodness. Awesome. I accepted it on the spot.
Yeah, to the majority of the tumblr-verse this is epically lame. Sorry, I’m not going to be going to NYC, Paris, or Rome taking cool pictures, edit them on photoshop, and then attach lame captions to them so I can get tumblr-famous off of my cool introspectivity. SAWREE!
For me, I could read about international politics and American foreign policy all day. It’s just fantastically captivating stuff. It’s like picking the brains of the entire world. Why do things work the way they do? Every country and culture has a story and the grimy, dirty, deceitful (seldom pleasant) ways we arrived at our current political statuses intrigue me. I won’t go on, but just know this: international security and diplomacy = my thang, gurl.
So. I’m at my second weekly-ish meeting with my professor to report to him all the wonderful things I found on the interwebz so far. We start discussing more in-depth stuff about the US-DPRK (North Korea)-ROK (South Korea) relations and where it can go. My professor is originally from South Korea (I think he’s emigrated, but not sure), so toward the end of the meeting I look to him and ask:
So we know what the US thinks about the DPRK, that it’s defunct. It will fail and soon. Maybe they’ll go on for a little longer with China’s or South Korea’s help, but what do YOU think? You think they’ll fail?
Prof: I hope so. It’s awful over there. There’s no freedom, no human rights. Oh yes, they will fail eventually. Think about all the people that have suffered–ARE suffering. I hope so.
Me: And you think they should reunify with South Korea?
Prof: Of COURSE. Absolutely, they should reconcile, reunify, and reemerge together as a nation–wait, do you know how Korea was divided?
Me: Yeah, I know some American army men just drew a line on the map, like with Vietnam. Right after the War (WWII).
Prof: Yes. Exactly. Take out __’s book. Page 186.
Me: Oh, I’ve read it already, but I’ll mark the page for future reference.
Prof: Read it again.
Me: Okay *pause*
Prof: Read it now.
Me: Oh! Sure, okay. *starts to read*
Me: Heh…my bad.
“The Division of North Korea. In the days just before the Koreans heard the voice of Emperor Hirohito for the first time, broadcasting Japan’s surrender and Korea’s liberation on August 15, 1945, John J. McCloy of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) directed two young colonels, Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel, to withdraw to an adjoining room and find a place to divide Korea. It was around midnight on August 10-11, the atomic bombs had been dropped, the Soviet Red Army had entered the Pacific War, and American planners were rushing to arrange the Japanese surrender throughout the region. Given thirty minutes to do so, Rusk and Bonesteel looked at a map and chose the thirty-eighth parallel because it "would place the capital city in the American zone”; although the line was “further north than could be realistically reached…in the event of Soviet disagreement,” the Soviets made no objections–which “some-what surprised” Rusk. General Douglas MacArthur, the hero of the Pacific campaigns, issued General Order Number One for the Japanese surrender on August 15, including in it (and thus making public) the thirty-eighth parallel decision. The Russians accepted in silence this division into spheres, while demanding a Russian occupation of the northern part of Hokkaido in Japan (which MacArthur refused).
“American officials consulted no Koreans in coming to this decision, nor did they ask the opinions of the British or the Chinese, both of whom were to take part in a planned ‘trusteeship’ for Korea. Instead, the decision was unilateral and hasty.”
Prof: Okay, you can stop there. You see, all the people that have suffered. Imagine. All because of a line someone drew. Thousands and millions of people killed and tortured in horrible military regimes–on both sides.
**At this point, he leaned in a bit from across the desk and I could see his eyes were a little redder (I thought) from being tired.
Prof: It’s devastating. And in the North it is really terrible, so many people starving. Thousands who grew up without families, it’s really chaos.
Me: It’s a good point and all, but the damage that has been done in more than 60 years, it’s hard to be repaired.
Prof: Oh, forever. Yes, this period will make an impact on Korea forever. But, Korea must reunify one day. It is necessary for everyone, it is the right thing for the country.
**And here is when I started to notice my professor wasn’t just tired, but emotional. His eyes were watering. Oh my god, this is awkward. But wow, I didn’t realize that he (and most likely other Koreans) felt so strongly about this. My heart really went out to this guy, and I felt for him. BUT, I didn’t want to see a grown man cry so I tried to end the subject and put the book away.
Me: Yeah, I understand what you mean. I can only hope that one day things will become better for Koreans.
That shit got too real, but I respect my professor a bit more now. It’s not like he’s doing this to make a salary (I mean he is), but a part of him is working for his country(wo)men. His heart really goes out to the people of the North and South, and in his way he hopes to make a difference.
I think in the hearts and minds of a lot of International Relations scholars, we know that eventually the two halves of the Korean Peninsula will become a whole again. Now, only politics (and GDP) separate the Koreans. I just hope when reunification does happen, this professor will still be around to see it.