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Holding Themselves Hostage


This morning, I discovered Ham Sok Hon, also known as the Korean “Gandhi” (I’m not a big fan after reading his bio, but you don’t have to take my word for it either. Then again, I don’t really like Gandhi either — that’s another post). He wrote this poem in 1962 and it still resounds today, especially today. Ham was referring to the invasion and occupation by Japan, the brutal war between North and South, and the long struggle for democracy in the South. He wrote: “The Challenge of Korea,”

How long it was, the tedious winter night?
While I was waiting in the dark corner of the dressing room,
Many nations came and went without heeding me;
They trampled me under their feet, and pushed me aside.

While I think Ham was writing this for Korea as a whole nation, I think North Korea sees itself as the one who has been trampled and pushed.

While nations look to punish North Korea with sanctions in order to bring Kim Jong-Il to the discussion table, the dictator seems more perturbed than ever, considering such overtures for diplomacy “a declaration of war”. From my viewpoint, he is tired of the weight of a hungry and destitute nation and he is willing to hold his nation hostage with a big bomb in order to perpetuate the country. Surely, the irony cannot be missed.

Kim Jong Il

After my last post on North Korea and how this affected me personally, I had a phone conversation this morning with my mother, whose two older brothers were kidnapped ino North Korea.

“What’s going on with this whole North Korea thing?”

“Your father thinks there’s going to be war… but I don’t know.”

“War against who?”

“The south I guess, I don’t think they have the technology to go much further or would want to. Japan is ready and China is their only friend and ally. But they have a huge army, but what they really need is food.”

“So how is the South reacting? They must be very nervous,” I said, knowing my parents spend more time watching Korean TV than American.

“It’s really strange, they don’t seem to be nervous. Maybe they’re too close to know what’s really going on. I’m nervous — when you’re dealing with a man this crazy, you really have no idea what he’s going to do next. If he drops a nuclear bomb anywhere in Seoul, that’s at least half a million people dead.”

Indeed, as we talked, it seemed that North Korea’s prime target would have to be South Korea, that these overtures of nuclear weapons should be most threatening to their well-fed, wealthy, peninsula-sharing relatives to the south, and they seem to be less upset than everyone else, stripped of their defenses. And while I’m not out to fearmonger, I can’t help but wonder what the end game is here.

Many South Koreans do not want the North Korean regime to fall, ironically because of what it would do to their economy (see East Germany). Nor does China want to see North Korea fall either. Reading this made me remember this verse:

A poor man is shunned by all his relatives—
how much more do his friends avoid him!
Though he pursues them with pleading,
they are nowhere to be found.

So what else can they do? They cannot continue living as they were, and because the two countries that share borders with them do not want them to fall, they must do something different, drastic even. Perhaps this is why the notion of sanctions is so inflammatory, what else can they do besides hold everyone, including themselves hostage.

It is the macrocosmic outplaying of the microcosmic dilemma of what life is like without Christ. Because when the proposition of a savior for who we are comes along, the status quo must crumble, the hostage situation must end.

Or they could…persist. They could live that way. They could be defiant, angry, militant, and even powerful. They could hold themselves hostage even as Christ longs to save them, they could become perturbed at such overtures — sanctions, cease-fires, detente — all signs of weakness they think.

In a hostage situation, the final phase is often a violent one, known as the termination phase, with three possible outcomes:

The fate of the hostages does not necessarily depend on what happens during the termination phase. Even if the hostage-takers give up, they may have killed hostages during the negotiations. Often, hostages are killed either accidentally by police or intentionally by their captors during an assault. There have even been cases in which the hostage-takers were granted their demands, but they killed a hostage anyway

If the case may be made that North Korea is holding themselves hostage, (the metaphor can well be applied to non-believers as well), the basic element of negotiating remains the same. “You work to build a rapport and encourage them to bring about a peaceful conclusion. The same techniques are used whenever someone is in crisis,” said Lt. Schmidt.

May our churches be negotiators — for North Korea, for our neighborhoods, communities, cities, countries, and this world. There are hostage situations all around us.

Work dilligently to free the hostages — for we know the one who is mighty to save.

Your will be done in North Korea, O Lord, but we pray for mercy — we pray for your name to be declared in that land. For your name’s sake, Jesus, may we ask you to make that dark nation shine? Would you let your praises resound one day outside those state-sanctioned church walls? Would you let their desperation to live be for your living water? That they might hear your voice and recognize you…

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About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

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