A Small Step Toward Peace On Earth?

 

December 20, 2018

On Nov. 10, 1989, the headline in The Daily Telegraph based in London read 'The Iron Curtain Is Swept Aside.' As the evening hours began on the east coast of the United States, Tom Brokaw began giving us details of the historic event. Berlin was inundated with citizens partying and clambering to cross to the other side. For forty years this country was divided. For forty years families were divided.

Soon the entire world was witnessing history as it happened. German citizens began bringing their own tools to chip away at the wall. It took a year or so for the German government to finally bring in the big equipment to finish the demolition. Even without all the technology we now have to spread and share information, we knew of this almost as soon as it began.

Fast-forward to November 2018. Another older historical divide is in the process of being brought down, but even if you search, it is somewhat difficult to find much information on this event. I've asked a few people if they knew about what I believe to be another world-news-worthy event and only one had heard of it. He just happened to be military, but he too was amazed that it was not being covered and shared. Where is this event? The Korean Peninsula.


In 1953 the demilitarized zone (DMZ), the border that divided North and South Korea was created by an agreement between North Korea, China and the United states. It is 160 miles long and approximately 2.5 miles wide. Or should I say it was ... on Nov. 20, North Korea nearly simultaneously blew up 10 of its guard posts. South Korea took a less showy approach to take down guard posts on their side of the DMZ.

Created as a buffer at the end of the Korean War, the DMZ is estimated to be the world's most heavily armed border with approximately 2 million land mines. It is reported that South Korea had 60 posts inside the DMZ. The posts were covered in layers of barbed wire and manned by military troops with machine guns. North Korea is reported to have 160 posts on their side of the DMZ.

By the end of December the Koreas have agreed to jointly verify the demolition of the guard posts. South Korea applied for an exception from the United Nations committee that manages sanctions on North Korea, and the U.N. Command, which oversees security in the demilitarized zone on the countries' border to enter North Korea. Then on Dec. 5 it is reported that nearly 30 engineers and officials boarded a train and entered North Korea to survey 1,600 miles of rail.


So what does all this mean? At this point, no one really knows. It is the hope of South Korean president Moon Jae-in that the two Koreas will unify and prosper. However, not all citizens from both Koreas are as optimistic about opening the borders.

But while progress seems to be making its way between the Koreas, the denuclearization of North Korea appears to be at a stand still. In fact as recently as Sunday North Korea condemned the U.S. administration for stepping up sanctions and pressure on the nuclear-armed country, warning of a return to "exchange of fire."

So is this really a change in relations between the Koreas or is North Korea manipulating South Korea in order to deter the U.S. And the United Nations while it continues business as usual? I hope for the former but I fear the latter.

As I research and write, another story has been posted by Time with the headline 'Japan To Boost Defense Spending In A Bid To Counter China and North Korea.' While soldiers from the Koreas meet and tour the demolished posts on either side of the DMZ, is there a behind the scenes build up being planned? I pray this is not the case.

The optimist in me wants to believe that real progress is being made and that the other combined 200 guard posts will be brought down. However, the pessimist side of me is not so sure that this leopard will change its spots.

 

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