Tales of a migrant: The Third Tunnel
Imagine tunneling your way into another country. It sounds rather cartoonish like Fantastic Mr. Fox escaping from the terrible tractors. But imagine humans tunneling for the sole purpose of infiltration, for the purpose of warfare.
There are four tunnels which the South discovered, respectively in the years 1974, 1975, 1978, and most recently, 1990. The tunnels exist as gateways between North Korea and South Korea.
Furthermore, the most recent tunnel was discovered because a defector gave information to southern forces about its location. Though the government from the north denied the activities of creating tunnels to the south on many occasions, the evidence of dynamite explosions justified their role as the culprits, especially in 1990.
When we arrived at the site, our tour guide led us to a theater across the street from the tunnel. My family, their friends, and I sat down in front of three screens projecting a mini-documentary on the Third Tunnel.
The mini-movie showed the expected content that I had hoped to write about.
It was both supportive of the unification of the south and the north, but also it was nevertheless a form of propaganda – half truths that boasted the strengths of the south and the hopes of unification based on expectation instead of reality.
The one image that stuck to my mind was the natural wildlife that existed near the DMZ. A diversity of birds, an expanse of four-legged creatures, and natural wildlife existed in an ecosystem where one of the world’s deepest divisions subsists.
I thought about the conscience of humans, the fact that humans with their set of politics and character could be more divided than birds and deer without a supposed conscience. Why couldn't the north and south be together? The disagreement of political systems is the only difference.
After the meandering thoughts and observation, our guide brought us through the museum and continued to tell us more about unification. I thought of him as a hopeful man with a wonderful vision of humanity.
Next, we went to the other side of the street to venture into the Third Tunnel.
Unfortunately, the staff told us that we were not allowed to bring cameras or personal belongings into the tunnels. We placed our belongings into personalized lockers that would wait for us once we returned.
Because we were not able to take pictures, all observations after this follow the thoughts I had recorded while venturing down the Rabbit Hole that was and is the Third Tunnel.
When we initially entered the tunnel, a man in blue instructed us to put on yellow hard hats. I adjusted mine to the point where it tilted towards the side like a paper boy yelling “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!”
I walked ahead of my parents and their friends, because I was modest enough hiker. Everyone around me in their yellow hard hats probably thought the same thought as me: this tunnel is going downwards forever.
Nothing but lights and the shadows they projected waned as I continually ventured down.
The pipes to the sides of my head stretched downwards. I felt like I was in a slanted well of my consciousness, too afraid to look back and see if there was water rushing down to drown me.
As I listened closely, I could hear the pipes. Water rushed through them, louder than a chorus of cicadas hissing in the middle of August.
I trotted down a slippery floor that looked like black licorice. However, I did not dare to eat anything off the floor.
I ran my fingers against the granite walls thinking about how one day this would all be amethyst stone. My fingers are covered in black residue that I wipe on my notebook. The residue was keepsake for this experience, a natural memento that paints the shadows in the tunnel.
I began to hit my head on the rocks, which cautioned me to bend down just a little more even though I am already short. My hardhat tilts a bit more.
Sooner or later, my wish was granted. I reached the end of the Third Tunnel.
I finally caught the glimpse that changed my perspective of the ambiguity and mystery surrounding North Korea, a higher truth that even led me to an answer to my own existence.
When I looked through the hole at the other side, it was like staring into the keyhole of Pandora’s Box.
There were answers and questions altogether. History’s hidden treasure lay beyond that little crack in the wall, a teal backdrop that lead to no-man’s land. It was almost as if I had tunnel vision this whole time, not noticing what and who surrounded me.
I followed not only my conscience, but the people in front of me, behind me, beside me. This was what I was not noticing all along. While in the tunnel, I thought about how I am a part of these people.
I am a part of this human race despite the political affiliation whether I was capitalist, a communist, a democrat, a republican. I was stuck in the same tunnel with these people, trying to get a glimpse of what was ahead. No longer did my tunnel vision exist.
As I walked back towards the exit, I was blank minded while I climbed up the slope that led me down towards the end. I only thought about finding my family once again.
Unlike the many people in South Korea who had been separated from their families because of the division between North Korea, I had realized how fortunate I truly was that I had my family to meet.
And when I finally found them, I embraced them with warm arms realizing what we had all been through together.
I often thought and continue to think about the truth behind all of this conflict that exists between the north and south, and the only thing that I could surmise is that all could be so simple if unification really could happen.
The very thought of unification dissolves the barrier that may exist between humans and their political beliefs, creating thus a community of human beings with their own diverse characteristics and personality.
Surely, there are pros and cons of such a situation, but imagine being reunited with your loved ones after so many years of conflict. There’s not greater feeling than seeing the mirror image of your loved ones.
Perhaps a trip to the Third Tunnel could provide answers for your own life, an insight to unravel for the story that you continue to write.