After being at daggers-drawn for decades, the two Koreas seem to have seen the light and are now indulging in what looks like a love-fest during the Winter Olympics. The US is not amused. By Kalundi Serumaga
This column was supposed to be about bananas. But then recent events reminded me of another kind of fruit: blackberries. To be specific, my ancient BlackBerry phone, fondly known as the BlackoutBerry due to its inexplicable habit of crashing.
About a year ago, I announced that I was waiting for a phone call from either the Prime Minister, or the Foreign Minister of the UK, and was worried that I might miss it due to the temperamental nature of said phone.
This was because I had accurately predicted a few months before that the UK’s only logical response to its population’s 2016 vote to end their membership of the European Union was going to have to be a revived interest in their ‘Empire Survivor’s Support Group’, formally known as the Commonwealth. I felt my prescience meant I had further insights to offer.
The calls never came, and I don’t think it was my phone’s fault.
However, as I wait, I am now expecting another set of calls; this time from the Prime Minister, and the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea (S. Korea), based on other predictions of mine that seem to be turning out to be quite accurate.
Last December, I chose to write in these pages about the Korean peninsula, or rather, the then escalation of belligerence towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (North Korea’s) government by the US, in the tweeting form of US President Donald Trump.
The thinkers and leaders of both sides of the Korean divide may be waking up to what many leaders of a then physically divided Germany recognised in the decade leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989: that there is a difference between having a place in a conflict, and being the place where that conflict is physically fought.
It seemed to have gradually dawned on all Germans that US strategic planning saw the central plains of Germany as the site for a war it expected to wage against the then Soviet Union, and was deploying nuclear weaponry accordingly.
Borders, being a wholly man-made creation, cannot stop radioactive blasts crossing like they can people. Germans, whether in the US-backed West Germany, or the Soviet-propped-up German Democratic Republic (aka East Germany), would be the first, and the most, to – putting it colloquially – fry.
There is a proverb/fable in my native language about this. A person’s upper lip was feeling hungry, and so persuaded the lower lip to join it in a conspiracy to make the person also feel hungry. The idea was that when the person ate, the lips would eat too. So, they began rubbing themselves together until their owner’s hunger pangs were aroused, and some roast meat was procured.
The hungry human started eating while it was still hot. Being more flexible, the upper lip was able to pull away as the hot meat passed into the mouth, and enjoyed it from there. The lower lip – as all you lovers of roast meat know is always the case – got burned alone.
Much as South Korea is on America’s ‘side’ in the over six-decade confrontation, there is something inherently racist about the US bragging how it can incinerate half of a race, while expecting the other half of the very same race to support it without question in its mission.
Another Korea in the offing?
Given the current wholly unexpected rapprochement between the two political halves of the peninsula, I think many influential South Koreans may have come to the same conclusion.
The images at the ongoing Winter Olympics of team members from both sides jointly waving a flag bearing a map of a united Korea, as well as the high-level attendance of both the host nation South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, and the sister/confidante of North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un, strongly suggest that another Korea, a united one, is now once again possible.
The two sides are now talking about perhaps a return visit, in the north. That would be the first public high-level contact between the two sides in over a decade. And a joint women’s ice hockey team has also been fielded.
These moves represent a not-so-subtle shift away from decades of a US doctrine of unbridled militarism in Asia. The implications are seismic. “Korea suffers the danger of a family having strangers and neighbours insert themselves into a household dispute…to the point where the Koreans, who speak the same language, practice the same culture and belong to one vast native clan system, cannot speak privately to one another,” I wrote.
Such direct face-to-face talks may be a real cementing of the shift. And the Americans have already stated their opposition to this.
Recovery and restoration
Why am I seeing things this way? It is because I have been a researcher and activist in the Marcus Garveyist field of restorativity and recovery.
As I wrote back then: “[The Korean situation] is a nuclear-tipped, high-tech version of the African condition where, after a century of Balkanisation and control by colonial powers, the place was inherited by other powers that seek to portray Africa’s artificial countries as real, and keep the real native communities apart.”
Apart from not wanting to see our only planet permanently contaminated by nuclear bombing, I believe Africans have something to teach the world about recovering oneself at family and community level, after several generations of enforced self-alienation, and how to ignore the big bully shouting through the window, while doing it.
I just checked: my phone is still between crashes. I am waiting for all those calls.