Settling into my life here in Seoul has been a bit hectic. I’m still not quite in the flow of things and last weekend marked a month since I moved here. I’d started to feel a little rundown and tired… I was stuck in a rut. I felt stuck and like everything was too difficult.
Then a friend recommended that I travel to Sokcho, a coastal city on the opposite side of the Korean peninsula. Sokcho is known for its mineral water springs, beautiful beaches and water-fronts and healthy, nutritious food. It sounded perfect. So I made plans to go and stay there for a night and 2 days.
And honestly, it was trans-formative. I felt like a new person by the end of the weekends and I was rejuvenated and energetic. The scenery was beautiful and the food was AMAZING.
Part of what made the trip so meaningful for me, however, was not necessarily so positive. Whether it was the number of army bases that I passed, the soldiers I saw, the high fences and barbed wire or the food and place names, I was constantly reminded of how close I was to the boarder with the DMZ and therefore how close I was to North Korea.
The mountains, fields and lakes in the area were stunning. And I was told that the land that makes up the DMZ is of of the most ecologically diverse and abundant areas in Korea, because of its lack of human intrusion. This environmental perfection is only tarred by the hidden land-mines from the Korean war.
The beaches were equally beautiful, but these too had constant reminders of the past and ongoing conflicts. It was sad in a way, that this beautiful country still had these lasting and prominent scars of its difficult history. In fact, when we drove up to the boarder gate of the DMZ, the closest a civilian can get to North Korea without paying money or needing to pass security checks, I almost cried. We had driven through a small farming town to reach our destination, and it was like someone had just cut the area in half. The village just stopped. It was a sudden and sharp division.
However, I didn’t cry. Because I saw how the people in the local area were just carrying on. Their lives hadn’t stopped. Life hadn’t just ended. And the situation has apparently been improving. More and more beaches have been taking down their high, barbed fences and those I met were positive about the improving relationships between the two Korea’s.
As we drove away and onto our next destination, it started to rain gently, while sun still shone through. A rainbow briefly appeared and made me think of how, although the division is difficult, there is still hope. Hope of reunification. Hope for a better future.
When I arrived in Sokcho I felt empty and tired. However, when I left I was hopeful, happy and I had fallen in love with Korea all over again.