In response to some who question the grief of the people of the DPRK by labeling it “propaganda”, or “staged” or otherwise invalid

I do not wish to lend my voice to a discussion of propaganda machines. I do not want to ponder if what I have witnessed through a computer screen or television is real. I believe these conversations are oversimplifications that seldom occur in the interests of the corean people and serve to distract from/replace dialogue on legacies of imperialism and colonialism, and otherwise facilitate US intervention (read: democratization, read: modernization, read: occupation). We ask for an easy verdict, “What is really happening over there?”, rather than pursue the more difficult exploration of “what has happened over there and what will continue to happen in our names as privileged citizens of the United States of America?”

I want to talk about understanding emotion.

As something much larger than a tear, or a shaking body, or even a public square filled with the mourning.

For me, emotion is lineage. It cannot be appreciated in its full beauty as a single moment in time. Rather it is a fleeting moment in which those in its presence are privileged witnesses to a culmination of past existences and histories that transcend one body, or “this place”, or “right now”. To see only the tree blossoming is to ignore the branches, the trunk, the roots—the profound mechanisms and relationships that nurture and sustain this single moment.

We, as oppressed people, know emotion as this deep connection to past. We know the weight of ancestors just as well as the weight of decisions made by white men, with power, whom we have never and will never meet. And we also know the violence of being asked to separate our history from our present. We are asked everyday to leave behind homelands, to unlearn languages, to forget the taste of a food. We are asked when they pass anti-affirmative action legislation on behalf of our best interests.

How then to make sure that we, as allies, do not become mechanisms to propel the same cycle that seeks our own fragmentation and elimination? It is a question that I struggle with daily, and for me it always comes back to understanding. I think an understanding (departing from a sense of love) of the context and history behind a moment can lead to healing and deep truth. And it is a good place to start when faced with the question: what do I do in the face of suffering?

Here are some resources that I have found helpful in my own process of understanding, and that move beyond the us vs them/evil-propaganda-spreading-dictator/victimized-and-powerless-people-of-the-third-world narratives and begin to examine the complex political, social, and economic forces behind the corea that we see today. Ultimately I believe it is our responsibility, as privileged citizens of theUnited States, to educate ourselves on these issues while examining over-simplified narratives and ask, “for whose benefit, and for what purpose are these narratives ultimately being created?” Please take these with an open heart for the gifts that they are.

The Korea Policy Institute (KPI) is an independent research and educational institute that provides timely analysis ofU.S. policies towardKorea and developments on the Korean peninsula. In the interest of promoting friendship between the peoples of theUnited States andKorea, KPI is guided by the premise that a reasonableU.S. policy towardsKorea must be supportive of the legitimate desires of the Korean people for peace, sovereignty, reconciliation, and the reunification ofKorea.

The Hankyoreh is a progressive newspaper, decisively committed to journalistic freedom, democracy, peaceful coexistence and national reconciliation between South andNorth Korea, which were divided by external forces after World War II.

Robin Park, wrote this poem on what it means to grieve from her perspective as a member of the corean diaspora. You can find more of her work at:

Terry Park, wrote this reflection on Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, after visiting the DPRK through the DPRK Education and Exposure Program (DEEP) in 2007.

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