I looked out of my airplane window out at the Golden Gate Bridge. Most of me was arriving back in California. Part of me was still in South Korea. I had been in South Korea since the beginning of February and now it was the middle of February.
I gave speeches, lots of speeches to Korean farmers in South Central Korea. The farmers and villagers were a patient audience. They were polite. They were puzzled at this American. Talking to them about uniting North and South Korea, that they could all be powerful people, that their family life is a model that others in the world could gain from. They smiled politely. Even when I spoke to them about their ancestors, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus and about my near-death experience. They smiled politely.
I was in Korea at the behest of my Korean-based church. And along with over 2500 Americans, we were seeking to have an impact on the unity of North and South Korea. The heavy lifting was done by the local Koreans and my short 5-minute speech was largely as an attraction—a curiosity. I didn’t mind.
Here is what I found, in this suddenly more in the news than usual country. Koreans are an emphatic people and it should be no surprise at all that war between the North and South could happen at any minute for the past fifty years or so. Kimchie, spicy cabbage, can be gotten used to. Parts of Korea look just like Northern California.
Korean farmers make do with the basics of life and live humbly. This is along with their wireless Internet access and cable TV. It is interesting to see their tractors, which look like giant roto-tillers, parked next to gleaming new cars. Cars that could be easily parked next to yours at Wal-Mart and you wouldn’t notice.
What are the implications of all this? These humble folk have as much information about the world as their counterparts in Des Moines, Iowa. Or in the cafes of Paris. And their politicians have been slow to realize that. As have we. Information is power. And someday, these farmers will vote their way to greater freedoms for themselves and their loved ones. And North Korea and South Korea will cease being the great divided family that they currently are and become one nation again.
This unity, however, is not support by the other Pacific Ocean players in this drama. Some countries, like the US, Japan and Taiwan, are very nervous about a competitive Korea arising from its crippled state. China and Russia both find North Korea useful in taking the time, attention and resources of the US. And both Japan and South Korea have more than a few guns pointed at the North Koreans.
The farmers smiled politely. They, at least, dream of the unification of Korea. They have the power. And they’ve heard about the Berlin wall.
Roger Steinbronn Roger Steinbronn is a personal empowerment specialist in the San Francisco Bay Area