There's an ongoing, heroic and very moving story that's been taking place in North Korea and in China's nearby region of Manchuria. It's a story of missionaries, refugees and an underground railroad. It's often a sad and very cruel story and yet there are some real shining lights, people who are labouring as Christians to reach out to escapees and in some cases help them embark on the long road to a new life in South Korea.
Crossing from North to South Korea through the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) is virtually impossible. To get to South Korea one must escape into China and from there you can head north into Mongolia but the far more common albeit longer road is to the south. After traversing China, arrival in Thailand will at last mean safe passage to the ROK (South Korea).
The Chinese are frustrated with the rash of North Koreans invading their country and don't want them there. If you're caught, you'll get sent back and the consequences of that are terrible, sometimes fatal. At the very least you'll be spending a season in a prison camp and more likely than not your extended family will also suffer.
The story is being told. There are numerous videos and not a few books. But I'm sorry to report that many of the books written for the American audience are highly tainted by think-tank propaganda. The 'scholarship' of the Hudson Institute, Stanford's Hoover Institution and the ubiquitous Heritage Foundation are often cited and referenced in these works. The journalists and scholars such as Melanie Kirkpatrick, author of the most recent work I read on this topic are essentially partisans who report the story but with a strongly politicised agenda.
It's unfortunate that this worthy topic is reduced to cheap propaganda by various parties associated with US militarism and imperialism.
No one on this earth will for a moment wish to defend the DPRK's Kim regime. It's monstrous.
That said, I cannot sanction the reporting and historical narratives put forth by the apologists of American Empire. The US record in South Korea is not only dubious, it is at times appalling. The US has supported military dictatorships, massacres and it is well known that in the era subsequent to World War II, the US largely re-installed the Japanese imperial apparatus and its hosts of collaborators.
The patriots, at least as many of the people saw it, were the anti-Japanese fighters in the north who had come under the leadership of Kim Il-sung. A horrendous dictatorial figure, Kim was caught between the drive toward the reunification of Korea and the machinations of Moscow, Beijing and Washington.
While the North did indeed invade the South in June of 1950 sparking the Korean War, the truth is that the US had been (through its South Korean proxies) provoking clashes all along the 38th parallel. The pre-war lines followed the latitudinal mark exactly leading to some rather nonsensical land divisions. The Ongjin Peninsula in particular was isolated from the South and yet because it was below the 38th parallel was part of the ROK.
A case could be made that the South all but provoked the war, that the North was responding to southern provocation. And yet the North did invade and thus the tale is what it is.
Even many South Koreans have rather mixed feelings about the narratives associated with their country. No one wants to move to North Korea or have them take over the peninsula. And yet there are aspects to the North's narrative that remain (at least to some in the South) admirable.
There's a great deal of resentment with regard to US domination and especially the Park years. South Korea's incumbent president (in the process of being impeached) Park Geun-hye is his daughter. General Park ruled South Korea from 1961-1979.
Park's rise and fall is but one chapter in a long story of US backed (often created) dictators who rise to power and then once they become a hindrance are promptly removed. The US virtually created the South Korean state and many of its foundational institutions including the military and the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) which was directly patterned after the US version in Langley. Describing it as 'patterned' doesn't begin to tell the story. Essentially it has functioned as an arm of Langley. It has long been a subservient puppet in the hands of US intelligence and has been utilised rather effectively.
General Park was assassinated in 1979 by the head of the KCIA who was later hanged. It's a very controversial episode to say the least and not everyone would agree the US was behind it. Nevertheless the KCIA's domination by Langley is something few would dispute.
Park's death lead to a period of chaos. Long simmering tensions resurfaced and culminated in the infamous Gwangju Uprising in 1980. Contrary to the official figures, more than a thousand were killed and it's clear the US military played an important role in suppressing the uprising.
My point in all this is to suggest that while the North Korea state is an abomination, the South has many dark secrets, many of which involve the bloody hand of US militarism and covert operations.
The 1983 downing of KAL007 also comes to mind. The Soviets shot it down. No one disputes that but the story of an innocent civilian flight which strayed into Russian territory is misleading to say the least. There was a great deal going on with regard to US/KCIA espionage and attempts to provoke the Soviets. This was something characteristic of the whole year and not just in Asia. It was one of the tensest periods of the Cold War. The shoot-down was certainly a heinous act and yet the US and ROK military and intelligence services are not innocent. A strong case can be made that the aircraft was either spying, providing cover for a parallel spy mission or used as an expendable agent provocateur.
The idea that the US somehow represents freedom, liberty and is some kind of Shining City on a Hill for Koreans to look to is not only misleading but patently false and frankly many South Koreans would find it offensive.
In almost every case these US think-tank associated publications on the situation in Korea and the North Korean Underground Railroad are written from a pro-US policy, interventionist and even imperialist standpoint. The story needs to be told but authors like Kirkpatrick are not only unqualified but indeed unworthy to tell it.