Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Words Can Both Heal and Wound

Throw a stone unwittingly and you may kill a frog. A proverb that reminds us that words, like stones, uttered carelessly can cause harm. A columnist in the Catholic Times gives us some thoughts on Korean unification. 

In Korean, he mentions the often repeated words in meetings with others: "Let us have a meal together some day." Refugees from North Korea in the South take these words literally. They are not merely polite  words of greeting but really mean what they say. Consequently, they ask themselves: "When will they notify me?  Why haven't they mentioned it yet? Are they making fun of me?"  In their imaginations, these kinds of thoughts keep returning. For a South Korean, it is merely a habit from courtesy, while for a North Korean a reason for anger and shame.

Another Korean proverb: With the right words we can pay back a debt of a thousand 'nyang'. With the right words, we are able to solve many problems and even the ones that seem impossible.

When drinking with friends we often propose a toast but the words we use in Korean, he mentions, are considered coming from a decadent society and makes the North Korean refugees feel uncomfortable. On one occasion sitting with a refugee from the North hearing the words it brought tears to his eyes. When asked why the tears: he answered he realizes he is a free person. The negativity of the words of the toast that the refugee was familiar with and the brainwashing that accompanied it, all disappeared like magic, because of the situation and the friend that was beside him.

Different is not another word for wrong. When the cultures are different one-way efforts are not going to bring results. Both parties with sincerity need to approach each other in their daily lives with actions that understand the differences, and the misunderstandings and work to change. 

Unification is not a topic we find easy to talk about and it becomes something we push off to the future but we have 30 thousand refugees from North Korea who are not to be pushed off to the future; the discord and divisions of our brothers and sisters and family should be acknowledged.  

Because we use the same language does not mean we are the same. We need to accept that they have a different culture and when we speak, to be careful  of their sensibilities.  He concludes with a need for prayer for the refugees and small efforts in bringing about a feeling of oneness among us which will be a work for the eventual unification of the country.