File today under B for BIG DEAL because Kim Jong-Il has died.
I’ve basically given up on eating lunch at school and use it as a planning period between Teacher, more pleases. So today I had trotted down to the teachers room to grab a gluestick between dishing out soup and just as I was standing there, got a notification from my New York Times app “North Korean State Television Says King Jong Il Is Dead.”
I did a double take.
Had I not been living in Korea for the past year and change, my reaction would not have been as strong, but the proximity of the Northern Limit Line alone makes me balk whenever I see that North Korea is in the headlines. I wouldn’t say I’m worried about anything happening, but the DPRK can be unpredictable and being alert when you’re living abroad is never a bad idea. As well, North Korea is known for making trouble outside the country to distract attention from internal problems.
At school, the air amongst the Korean teachers could only be described as one thing–excited. Within about fifteen minutes, every Korean teacher I saw seemed to laughing, smiling, and busily chattering away to each other. Their cell phones were ringing during the half hour gap between kindergarten and elementary school with friends and relatives calling to say “Did you hear?”
Through the magic of social media, I’ve been seeing lots of people trying to downplay the importance of his death, but even though it likely won’t mean Korean War, pt. deux or reunification for the peninsula, I think it’s important emotionally for South Koreans. Older ones especially. I haven’t experienced it personally, but foreigners with older co-workers or Korean friends have passed on stories about relatives getting visibly upset over throwing away leftover rice and I when I visited the DMZ in the spring, the guide spoke on the importance of not wasting kimchi for those living in the “peace villages” as memories of going without were still strong.
For now, it’s time to just sit back and see how it plays out politically, as well as emotionally, in my current adopted home.