The first thing I saw on the news today was 21-years-old college student sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea. All he did was taking off the poster with political slogan on it, and attempting to bring it back to United States. One of the interns sitting next to me said “Bleh, I did it all the time when I was little.” This is an unbelievable incident for such trivial issue. I believe North Korea overacted a bit in response to the hardening relationship between itself and the international community. Are they going to use this as a threat to United States? If so, I am pretty sure its not gonna work.
Korean public's response to this issue were as following:
“United States is going to do something about it.”
“Why did he go there from the first place?”
“I wonder how it would feel to be released at 36 years old”
First, I disagree that United States would do something about it. It decided to take an unforgiving policy against North Korea, including the sanctions that recently passed in United Nations with the help of China. The vote for the sanction was unanimous in the Senate, which shows that United States is determined to pursue this policy. Arrest of one American student wouldn't make much difference, and even if they try to rescue him, it wouldn't compromise with North Korea beyond this single issue.
Secondly, I felt the exact same thing too. The world is such a beautiful place as it is composed of many countries with distinct characteristics and colorful cultures. There are so many places to visit that it would take a lifetime to travel all of them. But out of those countries, the choice he made was North Korea, and the outcome of his choice was more than unfortunate. I wondered how he even got there, but apparently, he was able to visit North Korea through a travel agency in China. This means he did put a lot of effort into his trip, and that he was expecting something out of it, which turned out to be hard labor!
Lastly, I felt the same thing too. During his press conference, he couldn't resist his emotion and cried. He couldn't walk properly because the reality was so harsh to be accepted. He said he needed to take care of his siblings, and that he can’t be detained in North Korea for them. He asked for pardon as he is a human being who can make a mistake. I certainly do agree with him. He is young and curious, and even though his action turned out to be unacceptable by the people in North Korea, they could have just considered this as a mere mistake. Would he have enough courage to start over his life from 36 years old? Are all his young days going to evaporate at an unfamiliar, alien country?
Joon Oh, an UN Ambassador from South Korea recently made an impressive statement in United Nations. In his impromptu speech, Mr. Oh, in Korean, said “As an individual with the same racial root, I urge you to stop what you’re doing.” It is time for North Korea to take another diplomatic strategy for itself, as the future ahead is pretty dark in front of them.