” The Sea Rebel “
Guam to Saigon:
Ghosts of War (Part 4)
Korea is a place that has been mentioned much in the news lately. It is not a new name to most Americans. At least not to those who remember the Korean War. I was landing at Inchon, the same place General Douglas MacArthur had landed and turned the war in our favor, at least for awhile.
To a friend of mine who I had met on the ship, JoAnn Taylor, this was an important stop in our journey. Her late husband had been a veteran of the Korean War. He had survived the war, married her, and raised a family together. She told me she wondered what her life would have been like had he not survived the war. She was determined to go visit the DMZ, and I decided that I needed to see it as well.
The DMZ is the No Man’s Land between a divided Korea. A thriving South Korea, with her capital at Seoul, and the communist nation of North Korea. It is a result of the Korean War. When I attended Rosemead High as a student in the 1970′s there was a lot of talk about the Cold War, communism and the Soviet Bloc. Things have changed since then. Today in 2013, there are only four communist nations in the world – Cuba, China, Vietnam and North Korea. Soon I would be visiting two of them, China and Vietnam, but in Korea I had to settle with viewing North Korea from a distance.
The recent history of Korea is this. Japan controlled Korea during World War II. At the conclusion of World War II, Russian forces (our ally at the time) occupied the northern half of Korea and American forces occupied the southern half. Competing governments were set up, a communist one in the north and a republic in the south. When war broke out the communist forces pushed the ROK forces down to Pusan. The United Nations voted to aid South Korea and MacArthur’s landing at Inchon saved the day. However, MacArthur’s disregard for obeying President Truman’s orders led China to enter the war on the side of North Korea and also led to Mac Arthur’s dismissal. The war ended with things very similar as to how they had been before the war was fought and the DMZ has become sort of a permanent fixture.
Today the North Korean Army and the ROK Army are two of the largest in the world and they are constantly facing each other. Besides visiting the DMZ I also visited Tunnel #3. Tunnel #3 is a huge tunnel dug by the North Koreans to invade South Korea which was discovered by the South Koreans. Four such tunnels have been discovered so far.
This long stalemate has given the DMZ almost a surreal like feel. On the South Korean side of the DMZ you find all sorts of businesses flourishing. They even had an amusement park nearby. The threat is real, but after all these years the South Koreans live their lives as normally as they can — fully knowing that on any given day things may change rapidly for the worst.
Korea was an interesting place, but my ship was now sailing to Shanghai in China.