Korean Peace

On April 27th of this year, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in met in South Korea for an inter-Korean summit. 

The whole world watched with bated breath as both presidents reached Panmunjom within the Demilitarized Zone. 

The past few years had been filled with threats from North Korea to the U.S., escalating with new nuclear missile developments and tests in 2017, which showed the world that North Korean missiles could reach much farther than before—most of Europe, New Zealand, L.A., and maybe even the U.S. East Coast.  

Most of us have grown up with the looming threat of North Korea, watching the warnings becoming more real with every passing year. The world watched the seemingly succesful North Korean missile tests with growing anxiety. 

My family gathered around the laptop that was playing a live stream of the summit. We watched as the South Korean president greeted people, a wide smile on his face, before going back into his car and driving towards the Demilitarized Zone. There was a collective gasp when Kim Jong-un appeared in his black Mao suit, flanked by security and officials. The two presidents stood on their respective sides and shook hands. Then, Moon Jae-in invited Kim Jong-un to step over the bit of concrete that drew the line between North Korea and South Korea, something a North Korean president hadn’t done since 1953. Kim Jong-un stepped over. Kim Jong-un then invited Moon Jae-in over to North Korea. With hands clasped together, both presidents returned to the South Korean side, smiling. The moment was heavy with symbolism and history, and it was an emotional moment for many people, one they won’t forget. 

Everything about the summit was carefully planned—the ceremony for Kim Jong-un and the North Koreans, the meal, the walk on the bridge... It felt surreal, like the world had done a flip on its head and suddenly, an impossible wall was broken down. A cosmic shift. My parents lamented the lack of microphones and sound, jokingly trying to read the presidents’ lips as they spoke to each other. Everyone was wondering what the two presidents were saying to each other, with 65 years of war between their countries. 

Entering the Peace House, Kim wrote in the guest book, “A new history begins nowat the starting point of history and the era of peace.” 

As the meeting started, Kim said, “As I walked over here, I thought, why was it so difficult to get here? The separating line wasn’t even that high to cross. It was too easy to walk over that line, and it took us eleven years to get here.

It was a sentiment that many shared. 

The summit was the first time I considered Kim Jong-un to be a true leader of his country instead of a deranged, evil dictator. He kept a pleasant smile on his face, and he spoke well within a room full of political elders. People commented on the fact that every exchange was clear and unhindered by translators and cultural clashes, allowing for complex conversations that transcended political pleasantry. 

The next morning, around six, I grasped my phone to make out a headline on my screen proclaiming the upcoming end of the Korean War, and the peace on which both countries had agreed. I felt pride and joy and a soaring hope for the future of both countries. I watched videos of emotional reporters with tears in their eyes. A few days later, I am still optimistic about the future of both Koreas. While some have been skeptical about Kim Jong-un’s promise to denuclearize and establish peace, there are many compelling reasons to believe that further peace can be found in the future. 

Both leaders have done a tremendous thing, truly for the good of their countries. I remember thinking of how terrible Kim Jong-un was to threaten countries with his missile tests, but I also remember thinking that he was doing it to gain more power for North Korea. While his past actions will not be forgotten, he deserves credit for making a crucial step towards peace and progress for both countries. This step towards peace will hopefully bring families and countries together. 

When my grandparents called us, my mom told my grandfather, “Maybe you’ll be able to visit North Korea before you pass away.” It was a huge deal for him that the war would end during his lifetime, as it is for many other people. My parents spoke of the future—of being able to visit North Korea’s beautiful landscapes and mountains, of being able to communicate and mingle with their fellow Koreans on the other side of the border, of being able to share cultures and make up for the lost years, of families reuniting, of the two countries prospering together. I eagerly wait for the day when this all can happen, when the dreams and hopes of so many Koreans of both countries can be realized. Much is still up in the air, but I cautiously write this next sentence...

The war is ending. Peace is coming. 

By Hannah Yang

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