A view of two Koreas

Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 16:54 PM.

For 60 years, we’ve listened to the propaganda, lies, and threats emanating from North Korea, the backward, impoverished, little brother of its southern sibling. We’re all familiar with the Napoleon Syndrome, a psychological condition displayed usually in men who lack one physical attribute or another, generally stature. It’s also known as the Little Man’s Complex. The condition is characterized by overly-aggressive behavior that compensates for the subjects’ lack of size or abilities. There isn’t a better example of the Little Man’s Complex than that displayed by North Korea.

So the North’s aggressive, domineering, even fanatical behavior displayed in the way it celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice on Saturday is one example of how difficult it will be to achieve peace between the countries. Another example is one I personally witnessed during a trip to Panmunjom and the so-called Truce Village along the demilitarized zone during 2011.

There at the Truce Village stand three simple wooden buildings — sheds really — painted in "United Nations Blue." It was the United Nations that came to the aid of South Korea when it was attacked by the North in 1950, and it was in these sheds that negotiations and the signing of the cease-fire occurred 60 years ago. The sheds were and still are designated T-1, T-2, and T-3. The "T" stands for temporary because the sheds were intended to be torn down after the armistice transitioned to a full peace treaty.

Peace never happened. Instead, Americans have been dying for 60 years since the signing of the armistice, including some 1,500 Americans who were killed in action. Some cease-fire.

The buildings straddle the borderline between North and South Korea. One can step across and into North Korea inside these sheds, an unsettling act knowing that you’re stepping into a crushing dictatorship. Thankfully you can step back across the border and into South Korea and freedom, the doors to the sheds guarded by handpicked South Korean soldiers skilled in marshal arts.

The sheds are simply furnished on the South Korean side with mementos such as small U.S. and South Korean flags and a polished conference table and chairs. On one of the conference tables is the outline of a bare foot indelibly impressed on the otherwise polished table top.

In Korea, like in many oriental and Middle Eastern countries, baring the bottoms of your feet — especially putting your feet on a table — is considered rude and disrespectful.



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