A comparison of North and South Korean paradigms demonstrates that the major rupture between two halves of a once homogeneous culture which has been occurring over the last 60 years lies not in their respective attitudes to communism. In many aspects, purely communist messages of North Korean discourse are congruent with communal values of patriarchal Korea and may be quite appealing to a regular South Korean.
What in fact differentiates the North Korean spiritual world from the South Korean one is it's radical departure from civil traditions of the Confucian learned gentlemen, which traditionally despise brute force and military violence.
North Korean ideology has significantly redefined Korea's past, present and future. When depicting traditional Korea, North Korean media tend to downplay its Confucian legacy and falsely represent old Korea as an essentially martial state. According to a popular ideological myth, obligatory military service allegedly enjoyed such a high prestige in old Korea that it was widely considered a kind of initiation process for young men, without passing of which they were not allowed to marry.
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A consistent injection of this idea into generations cannot pass without consequences. Warriors who are trained to fight against named enemies, the South Korean president among them, will search for their battlefield and are likely eventually to find it.
Meanwhile, South Korean upbringing is rapidly moving towards the opposite direction. On the one hand, it largely continues Confucian traditions of the prevalence of intellectual development over the body. On the other hand, this Confucian legacy has been augmented by the educational trend of contemporary Western democracies, with their emphasis on pacifism, tolerance and leniency to human weaknesses.
One of the recent mantras of South Korean pedagogy is curbing children's aggression and discouraging violent games and toys. A range of parental books on the shelves of the largest Seoul bookshop, Kyobomungo, calls on South Korean fathers to refrain from any aggression, both physical and verbal, when dealing with their children and to inspire their offspring to do the same at schools and playgrounds.
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In a prosperous, humane and caring world of South Korean children, everyday violence is hidden from the public eye; this is a world with an increasing number of vegans, animal shelters, and a thriving pet industry. For a young South Korean child today, a rabbit, for instance, is associated with a fluffy toy or a cute domestic companion. In the harsh reality of North Korean children, rabbits are domestic animals that are valued for their skin, meat and fur.
Nation-wide campaigns encourage North Korean kindergarteners to raise rabbits and children "to make food and clothes for the brave uncle soldiers of the Korean People's Army".
Are South Koreans prepared to deal with their brothers in the North?
The popularity of the ideal of reunification in South Korea has been dropping for some time, driven substantially on the economic and financial costs of reunification. If South Koreans come to feel that they don't share that many cultural traits in common with North Koreans--if, in fact, the emerging norms of South Korean culture are held in contempt by North Koreans--what incentive, exactly, to South Koreans have to reunify? What is there to reunify at all? I wonder.