Friday, July 3, 2009

Harrowing migration

Friday, July 3, 2009
The history of migration, to me, is about people searching for a better life. The route out of North Korea, though, goes beyond the norm.

The story of Myong Hui Eom puts it into perspective. How else does a teacher go from one extreme to the other, from the "utopia," as she puts it, of her home country to realizing that it's not what she thought.

Breaks the heart again and again

Thursday, July 2, 2009
If it seems odd that one of the most Christianized nations in the world is South Korea, consider the peninsula's crisis.

I used to wonder, how and why did South Korea become so strongly Christian? This goes back to my teens, when I went to church with one of my best friends. The kal bi was excellent! But it was much more than that. It was my first real experience being around Christians young, old and in between.

I always wondered later, how Christ came to be such a focal point in a part of the world that is otherwise Buddhist, Shinto and, further south and southwest, Hindu. The how part isn't on my mind these days. The why part, though, is clear now. The faith required to help North Koreans escape the tumult of Kim Il-Jong's regime is enormously deep. Nobody else but missionaries are willing to risk their lives to help North Koreans get across the Tumen River, then through China, all the way down to Thailand, before they can reach freedom in South Korea.

It's something I'm watching on a recent episode of Wide Angle on PBS. Crossing Heaven's Border is a mirror of the reality, the risk, the sacrifice that continues on. While some people get their kicks watching a bunch of spoiled brats act stupid on programs like The Real World, folks in places like North Korea simply want freedom so bad they'll risk being killed. It's enough to make a cynic want to cheer for the underdogs again.

It's not white and black, never was

Monday, June 22, 2009
It's all a blur these days.

Pretty cool. Some geeks might call it a fusion culture. I think it's a no-B.S. culture. Information is a real currency and it's available cheap or free. If kids like something -- classical, jazz, whatever -- they have access to learn and master it regardless of color lines.

Technology and the Internet have changed a lot of things. Black kids mastering Guitar Hero. Spanish kids becoming NBA stars. Kids in Beijing getting into hip-hop. In the 1980s, academians called it a Global Village. In 2009, it's more like a Global Block Party sometimes. Twitter is abuzz with updates, opinions and information about the uprising in Iran (rigged balloting). The Iran page picks up updated posts from the public constantly, by the second.

For better or worse, information precedes cultural crossover and always has. Trade leads to sharing of goods -- and goodies. That's how the chili pepper made it from South America to Korea. Made it big around the world. Sometimes I miss the age of secrets, but that doesn't matter anymore.

They wear shirts and pants

Monday, June 15, 2009
Everything I've read and seen about Iran in recent months has been surprising.

Folks there can be rather, um, rebellious? Contrarian. What little I know is that there's a large population of college-educated people there, even Westernized to a large scale. Even in the face of steep religious extremism in the past, Iran has its share of civil unrest today. The photos paint quite a picture. From the New York Times site.