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Asia Minute: Korea’s Divided World

Bill Dorman
Bill Dorman
/
Nick Yee
Credit Nick Yee
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DMZ soybean chocolate from the DMZ gift shop.
Bill Dorman
Credit Bill Dorman
/
The author with South Korean troops.

This Thursday, while Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving - officials from North and South Korea will meet for the first time since this summer.  HPR’s Bill Dorman recently returned from a ten-day program in South Korea with the East West Center and begins a week of reports with a look at the north/south divide in today’s Asia Minute.

The De-Militarized Zone may be one of the world’s most misleading phrases.

The DMZ is heavily fortified on both sides of a narrow border splitting Korea into North and South.  It’s an eerie place - where the gravity of a divided peninsula meets the absurdity of a nearby gift shop where “DMZ chocolate” is on sale, along with foul-smelling North Korean wine.

Visitors need to sign a release form, acknowledging the U.S. government is not responsible for injury nor loss of life in what is still considered a war zone.  Photography is extremely limited….audio equipment definitely not welcome.

This week, officials from north and south will meet…to talk about setting up another meeting—potentially a higher-level dialogue that could in turn lead to further reunions of families separated by the war more than 60 years ago.  North Korea wants an easing of economic sanctions - not to mention positive attention at a time when its human rights record is getting another round of publicity.

Last week, the United Nations human rights committee voted to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court.  Next month, the General Assembly will consider the resolution - which was drafted by the European Union and Japan - and immediately condemned by North Korea.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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