"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Flag surviving invasions, wars, division, dictators


Flags tell stories, and one flag of the readers of this blog this week has survived years of invasions, wars, dictators and political division as a symbol of peace and unity in a region of continuing danger to free people.
The distinctive and perhaps most deeply symbolic of flags belongs to the Republic of Korea, known to us as South Korea.
Koreans are hardy, intelligent, hard-working people. They have to be or they wouldn't have survived. The name comes from a Middle Ages dynasty that ruled the peninsula, Goryeo. That and another dynasty ruled for hundreds of years in peace until the rest of the world intruded. Japan annexed it in 1910, and held it until the end of WWII. That's when the country was divided into north and south zones of occupation for the Russians and Americans. A 1948 election led to the creation of the republic and the UN recognized it as the only lawful government. The Russians promptly set up a rival government in the north.
North  Korean flag
In 1950 the North, backed by the Chinese and Soviet Union,  invaded the South, starting the Korean War that involved the US and other nations in a UN "Police Action" to stop communism, just five years after the end of WWII. When MacArthur invaded the north, Communist China retaliated, sending waves of troops into battle and pushing the Americans back. America came close to using another nuclear bomb, but when Eisenhower was elected president, he decided not to.
The war lasted three years and solidified the previous boundaries. The 1953 armistice, never signed by South Korea, split the peninsula along a so-called 2 mile-wide "demilitarized" zone. No peace treaty was ever signed,  so the countries are still technically at war. That border is the most heavily fortified in the world, one of the world's danger points, with U.S. military stationed there. North Korea continues to be in the news, raising the dangers of nuclear war.
Mike Clark's ship in the Korean War
The war is personal to me because my late uncle  Mike was in combat at the Inchon Landing in September, 1852. A signalman on LST 975, he was under fire as the first wave hit the beach in the decisive battle near Seoul behind enemy lines. And my late cousin Charles Rogers Lutrick also served in the war.
Still South Korea suffered under despots until 1987, when military rule ended and civilians took over. Today, the country has perhaps the fastest Internet in the world, the fourth largest Asian economy and is a model of progress and economic growth. South Korea also has strict gun control laws, with the fewest firearms per capital. And just north of it, sits this backward country of have-nots, ruled by someone who calls himself the "Supreme Leader." We Americans don't take to people who think they're supreme over anybody.
Flying over this turmoil is the flag influenced by Taoism and Chinese culture. The white background symbolizes cleanliness of the people, and the center symbol, the "yin and yang" the perfect balance of the universe, a continuous move in infinity. The four trigrams represent justice, fruition, wisdom and vitality.
Just to the north flies the red star flag of the so-called "People's Republic of Korea. " Originally that flag also carried the yin and yang symbol but adopted the red star of communism. Today, the rogue state is puts less emphasis on communism, but hasn't changed its ruthless dictatorship and determinatipn to subject its people and threaten the world with war. I have no readers of this blog from that heavily censored country.
Koreas, at night, from space
If you want to see the difference in two countries, look at nighttime energy usage. Electricity usage is the clearest indicator of economy and personal strength, and in this case, freedom, where everything seems to be in balance, regardless of the outside world. I have colleagues and have had students from South Korea. They reflect those values.

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