Tina J. Park is a doctoral fellow at the Asian Institute specializing in Canadian-Korean relations and executive director of the Canadian Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.
Co-Authored By: Tina J. Park
There is something especially noteworthy in how the two Koreas climbed down from conflict to cooperation in the past week. After some forty-three hours of marathon negotiations, the Korean peninsula went from a “semi-war” state declared by the North to an unprecedented inter-Korean Joint Agreement, which not only dissolved military tensions but also paved the road for further dialogue and partnership. It also marked an important occasion when the deeply-rooted spirit of “Han” and politics of distrust were modestly set aside by the prospects of hope andtrustpolitik.
“Han” is not only a Korean language short form for “Korea” itself, but also an ominous term reflecting a sense of oppression, resentment and hopelessness experienced by the Korean people. Stemming from a history of frequent invasions, the feeling of unresolved resentment is an important one in the Korean collective psyche, with a strong desire for meaningful apologies. The spirit of Han could be found on the face of a mother who lost her son in the sunken Sewol ferry, just as it could be found in an 85-year old South Korean man who has not seen his younger brother in the North in six decades.