The Screenplay-novel Manifestos

Less is more vivid

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Taepodong Brief/Agenda/Scenario/Dilemma

At times, living in Korea is like living in a plot from a thriller or the screenplay to an action movie. This morning, it was news that, yes, the North Koreans had launched several missiles, including their ICBM, the Taepodong 2.

The Taepodong test failed. Or at least, this is what we are being currently told, as intelligence and diplomatic sources spin the story to downplay it -- just as they were spinning it to create a sense of urgency a week ago.

In any case, downplaying the test wasn't so hard to do; South Koreans have tended to tune out a lot of the geopolitical chatter they get exposed to. When I asked the students in my conversation class what they thought about the whole thing, a couple of them hadn't heard about it, and only one expressed concern.

At the same time, the stakes are high on the Korean peninsula -- they have been for over six decades now, dating back the the original division of Korea into Soviet and American "spheres". This was at the very end of World War II, and it was a time when Korea -- in its entirety -- had a chance of avoiding the cataclysm that was to follow.

That wasn't the way it worked out, of course ... and it is probably no small coincidence that the secrets that underlie what happened in the lead-up to the outbreak of war in June, 1950, are a distant reflection of the amnesia and indifference contemporary Koreans feel. But maybe we're all a little amnesiac. After all, the Korean War was the de facto beginning of the Cold War. And the Cold War was what shaped to a significant degree the "Long War" we are now stuck in.

For Koreans, the simple reality is this: the Korean War remains an open wound. But it's not just an issue for Koreans. It's an issue that should concern anyone interested in the Cold War and its fall-out.

And what is interesting about the issue from a literary perspective is that South Korea, like so many countries tht endured long periods of dictatorship, developed a tradition of truth-telling in its fiction. But all truths, it seems, still haven't been told about the war.

(To find out more, click here to read an article in the New York Times:)


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