Most of the world had their eyes glued to their TVs, phones, or other news-gathering sources on Friday, April 27th 2018 as a North Korean leader stepped onto South Korean soil for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The summit that took place brought about the Panmunjom Declaration, which will work to end of the war that split the Korean Peninsula into two countries. While the unification of the north and south still seems to be far off, the Korea that the world has known for the past six decades is changing.
I spent that Friday applying for my Korean foreigner card, with my afternoon being spent in the immigration office. The waiting area was filled with both Koreans and foreigners alike fixated on the TV airing the events unfolding at the DMZ. Because my Korean language is still in its infant stages, I was unable to follow much of what was happening but was floored when I found out the results of the historic meeting. My Korean friends were excited to ask if I had seen the news and to talk to me all about it. Because a large part of the Korean population has only known the peninsula divided and at war, there is new political territory to explore because of this summit, and no one can say what the future holds.
The end of this war also holds a special place in my family, especially with me studying in South Korea right now. Both of my grandfathers fought in the Korean War as part of the U.S. military. My paternal grandfather fought from 1950-1951, and my maternal grandfather was a Chinese translator.
On Saturday the sun rose just as it had every single day since I came to Korea. Life seemed basically unchanged, as if the meeting had never occurred, which goes to show the rate at which these things occur. The DMZ will not come down overnight, and the Korean Peninsula will not return to the unified state it was at before the war by next month.
There are still a lot of meetings that need to happen, agreements to be made, and compromise on both sides that will need to occur. It is hard to say what the long-term effects of the conflict will be, but the world will now be watching the Korean Peninsula even more closely than in the past.
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