Flourishing…that’s how I would describe South Korea. From its culture and industry, to its technology and people, South Korea is clearly an advanced nation. And green. I have been completely surprised by the forested mountains, complete with evergreens and leafy deciduous trees. It is easy to feel welcomed and at home here.
Welcomed is definitely not the word I would use in describing our sojourn into North Korea through the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). In fact, it was distinctly chilly. The North Korean soldiers watched us carefully as we entered the DMZ and crossed the Military Line of Demarcation, technically entering North Korea. The stark contrast between North and South Korea is evident everywhere, even in the natural environment. While the landscape in South Korea is lushly wooded and green, all the trees along the DMZ in North Korea have been cut down, making the hills appear brown and drab.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that South Korea is a very grateful nation, demonstrated even today, in oh so many ways, especially by the older generation. South Koreans know that their country exists today because of military support from the 16 nations who fought in the Korean war. We had the privilege of visiting the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan, where I have never seen graves sites so tenderly cared for. There was not dried bloom on any flower or any blade of grass out of order in the cemetery. It was beyond pristine and a gesture of appreciation and remembrance.