About Jay

Jay graduated in 2009 from Davidson College.

Researching Refugees

North Korean Asylum Seekers (Photo Credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

This summer, when I wasn’t driving around in a minivan or eating dinner or talking about Gossip Girl with North Korean refugees, I dabbled in some online research on foreign policy.

This was on assignment from the Ministry of Unification’s Resettlement Support Division, the department that looks after North Korean refugees during their integration process. I looked into Chinese, South Korean, US, Australian, UK, and Canadian policies with respect to North Korean refugees—those are at least the countries with plentiful information available in English about their policies, and generally are also the ones with the greatest influx of North Korean refugees. Continue reading


March for Peace and Unification

Team 2 on the March for Peace and Unification

The author's team on the 2011 March for Peace and Unification (photo credit Chan-yong Park)

I traveled the DMZ for one week this summer with five hundred middle school, high school, and college students. We were on a March for Peace and Unification. I think the title can be a bit misleading, so I will clarify.

The “march” was actually more like a tour. We walked, but only for short durations—partway up a mountain, say, or partway down a defunct North Korean infiltration tunnel. I was relieved to discover that we would neither be in step nor carry signs, and that we wouldn’t have to try to knock on doors or anything to persuade people to support unification. I didn’t think that would work.

The march was run by the Institute for Unification Education, with the goal of getting young people to think about unification issues (and, ideally, to support eventual unification), and we were the target audience. Continue reading

The DMZ: A Thin Wilderness

South Korea is a mountainous and crowded country. High hills and low mountains are in view no matter where you go, but there are also fifty million people on the peninsula. So, wherever there is flat land, there is a city. The cities, towns, and farms spread over the low-lying areas like water, and nearly all the undeveloped areas are in the heart of mountains.

The DMZ is an exception. Whether it crosses mountains or lowlands, it is wilderness: it stretches blank and empty like a thin belt across the waist of Korea, uncaring of topography. You can track it on a satellite map by the narrow band of darker green marking it out from the towns and farmlands to the southern side. It very roughly traces the 38th parallel of north latitude, extending two kilometers to either side. It is heavily fenced, mined, and guarded, but attracts some visitors, of whom I was one this summer.

Map of the DMZ (image credit smithsonianmag.com)

Map of the DMZ (image credit smithsonianmag.com)

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