Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Balloon Wars

There is the long-simmering conflict between North and South Korean, with its famed DMZ on the 38th parallel. And then there is the balloon war between once-allies who have now become foes. Such is the nature of human kind that even those who seek the same ends through similar means (in this case 40-foot-high vinyl balloons carrying anti North Korean screeds) often find themselves at odds when the monster Ego raises its ugly head. Friday’s Times reported on the conflict between Park Sang-hak, chairman of Fighters for a Free North Korea, and Lee Min-Bok, an evangelical Christian and leader of the rival group, Campaign for Helping North Korea in a Direct Way (“Balloon-Borne Messages to North Korea Have Detractors on Both Sides of Border,” NYT, 4/26/11). Much of the rivalry takes place in the border town of Imjingak, where residents find that the dispute, which has gotten “confrontational” at times, frightens away busloads of tourists, who prefer their conflicts served up in a more mediated environment. “I’m the original,” the Times quoted Mr. Lee as saying. The Times then quoted Lee calling Park “an ingrate” focused only on “greed and money and fame.” Mr. Park is apparently not one to eat crow. The Times reported him saying Mr. Lee is a “a crazy person” and  “a Christian zealot,” who “even among defectors is “an outsider.” Is there a lesson to be learned here?

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