Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The tragedy of communism.

(Authors Note: This posting is not full of funny stories or anything like it. It's about our visit to North Korea and the tragedy of communism. It's not like we left our tour deeply depressed. Instead, we felt more educated and aware about what is happening in the part of the world we live in currently. This tiny peninsula is far from insignificant.)

This last weekend, we went to visit Korea's DMZ.



The DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) separates North and South Korea and is the most heavily armed border in the world. The DMZ was set up after the cease-fire in 1953 at the end of the Korean War. There was never actually a peace treaty signed, so technically speaking, the north and south are still at war.

We were able to visit several different areas of the DMZ. It is something that is taken VERY seriously, being that it's not exactly a safe place to visit. We took a tour with the USO, which is an organization that supports military and expats abroad. You are not allowed to just go "see" the DMZ. In order to pass through all of the security, you have to actually be on a certified tour. Once we got to Camp Bonifas, after having our passports checked, we signed a paper during the briefing stating that were war to break out while we were on our tour, we would not hold the UN accountable.




Here is a picture of us standing on the edge of the South Korean border, facing North Korea. You can see the North Korean guard in the far back and the South Korean guards just behind us. This part of the DMZ is where all of the joint meetings between the North, South, and the UN occur.



This is a picture of us straddling the border between the North and South, while in the conference meeting room.



Standing with the South Korean guard.



This picture is taken from another location along the DMZ. While standing there, we could see the "jamming" tower, which jams all radio, tv, phone, cable, and Internet signals from South Korea and other locations that could possibly enter the country. For those of you who don't know, North Koreans have no contact with the outside world. Their only news comes from their own government. Their Internet comes from their government. They have no idea what is going on with the outside world. It is an absolute tragedy, especially because it allows the government to brainwash the people.

These are a couple of thoughts/facts we learned about on our trip:
-South Korea has the tenth strongest economy in the world. This is especially interesting when you compare their economy with North Korea's economy. The average factory worker in North Korea makes $2.50 every month.
-The Bridge of No Return is named this for good reason. At the end of the Korean War, soldiers were given the choice of where they would like to live. However, once they crossed that bridge, they would not be allowed to go back. This is still true today as it is illegal for a North Korean to leave their country and immigrate to another country. They are allowed to leave the country, but if they do not return, the government can look for them and arrest them for trying to escape.
-One more interesting piece of information that you may not know is that the current leader of North Korea, Kim Jung Il, is dying or possibly already dead. If there is going to be a revolution in North Korea, the time is coming soon. Some South Koreans feel a deep compassion for their North Korean families are working hard to simply stay alive. Many South Koreans are taking serious measures to try to alert the North Korean people about their dying leader, encouraging them that this is the time for a revolution. If you are interested in reading more, check this out on the BBC website.




The Bridge of No Return


Also, you can check out the video Keith made with various segments from the day on the right hand side, if you are interested.

Thank you for reading and caring about these current global issues.
Posted by Megan and Keith at 5:10 PM | 5 comments  
Friday, December 5, 2008

So I'm not your average Karate Kid...

Alright, I admit that I am pretty awful about any kind of semi-regular posting on here. Since it's pointless to make excuses, and I don't have any good ones, I will make up for this absence through including an embarrassing video that displays my inability to be serious when Keith is trying to take a video of me actually being serious.

Check out the video on the right. I just got my orange belt this week, which is actually very exciting for me. I love Taekwondo and what a challenge it is. I'm hoping to be at a very high belt by the time we leave Korea.


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A few people have asked us what we did for Thanksgiving. The weekend before Thanksgiving, we purchased tickets to this English teacher conference thing that had a Thanksgiving meal at the end of it. We didn't go to the conference, just the dinner, but it was amazing. On the actual Thanksgiving day, I had to unfortunately work, because here, it is just like any other day, of course. Keith fortunately had the evening off, so he went to a Thanksgiving dinner with about 15 other foreigners, potluck style. He brought mashed potatoes to the dinner. In order to cook for that many people, he basically had to use all of our dishes to hold them. He also made sweet tea. Even though I couldn't go, Keith brought me back a plate of food, which was delicious.

Thanksgiving is also interesting here because Koreans don't like turkey at all and you cannot buy it anywhere here. But, we were thankful to have turkey from the military base that is not to far away.

Here is a picture from the meal we had the weekend before Thanksgiving and Keith there at the dinner with some of our friends.




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I have working quite a few more hours at work the last three weeks because we had the end of my first term, and now the beginning of the winter term. I was sad to see some of my students go, but I am thankful that I have a few of the same students for another class this term.

I actually really like my new schedule. I am teaching some higher levels now with some really cool topics to cover and discuss. For example, last week, in the highest level class I teach, we watched a news clip about the two blind candidates that were running for state office in the US. In addition to reviewing what they watch and taking notes on it, we also have stimulating discussions about the topic. It is always interesting for me to see their different perspective on issues like this one, for example. Should people with disabilities have equal opportunity in government and other fields as people with no disabilities? Today we talked about freedom of speech, specifically in light of some recent Korean celebrities who have committed suicide as a result of public shame. In other words, they killed themselves because people said bad stuff about them on the Internet. It is a complete tragedy. This raises some important questions in a shame based society about the freedom of speech. Needless to say, I am really enjoying teaching and how much I am able to learn about this culture and society while I am doing my best to help my students learn English.

Here are a couple of my class pictures on the last day of class for the last term.




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A couple of the interesting places that we've visited recently are the National Museum of Korea and the Seoul Tower. The museum was incredible and so big that we only visited the first floor the day we went and will have to go back to see more on another day. The Seoul Tower is the highest building in Seoul and has a magnificent view of this enormous city. The building is surrounded by windows in it's entirety. We ate dinner there with the beautiful view. Also, all around the tower, there are windows pointing in the directions of various locations around the globe, from the North Pole to the South Pole, Cairo, Moscow, and even Seattle. We also visited Hard Rock Cafe for the first time since we've been here and enjoyed some really good burgers.


The National Museum of Korea


The National Museum of Korea. They love their Pagodas.


Putting my Taekwondo skills to work on this ancient warrior.



Ancient pagoda in the National Museum.


When I mentioned that the Seoul Tower has windows literally everywhere so that you can always see the view, I meant that. This picture was taken from the men's bathroom.

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Finally...here is our first Christmas tree. We put it up together on Monday night of this week and we love it. Special thanks to Mom (Gayle) for the ornaments and the guy who used to live in our apartment who left us his fake Christmas tree.


Posted by Megan and Keith at 1:09 AM | 9 comments  
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