Discussing North Korea With Your Children (and an interactive timeline!)

This summit with North Korea has captured my attention. No one really know what Kim Jong-un has in mind . . . or up his sleeve. But the prospect of peace? Liberty? Rice? How did we get from last fall’s North Korean Crisis in which Kim Jong-un demonstrated his nuclear weapons capabilities to him sitting down with President Trump to discuss peace? All in less than a year? This could be as significant as the fall of the Berlin Wall . . . except my children will hardly notice because they hardly know anything at all about North Korea. This week, that is changing.

North Korean summit

North Korea has long been closed off to the west. We have very little information about the lives of the North Korean people, the conditions of the prison camps or the real struggles faced by a nation who has lost all of its most powerful political and economic allies. We occasionally get a glimpse of life behind the curtain when a refugee makes it across the border . . . or a tightly controlled press tour bus makes a wrong turn.

They know as little about us. Their media channels are all state controlled and foreign media is tightly restricted. International travel is restricted. The constant propaganda paints a picture of a regime thriving under the continual threat of western aggression. Their entire society is ordered according to songbun, an ascribed status based on how loyal the regime perceives you to be. It determines where you can live, how you will be educated and what kinds of jobs you can get. It is not so easy to climb this social ladder, either, for crimes against the state can carry a sentence spanning three generations.

As the summit approaches, we have a unique opportunity to share this history with our children. Since they have not grown up under the constant threat of imminent war, it may not seem quite so important. But this is every bit as significant as Mikhail Gorbachev’s experimentations with liberalizing the economy and making steps toward peace with the United States. No one quite knew what he had in mind at the time, either, but in hindsight, it seems like a desperate attempt to maintain some sort of control as an empire unraveled from within. The Berlin Wall came down, nation after nation broke free and finally the Soviet Union itself collapsed. North Korea is certainly feeling the same kinds of internal pressures. How far will it go toward peace and liberty in order to remain in control?

This interactive timeline will help give context to the current situation and help you show your children the long road the Korean peninsula has taken to its current border as well as the history which pulls the two Koreas together. The links in the time line go to brief videos to illustrate Korea’s history in sight and sound. Share them with your children and help them understand just how history has brought us to this point and talk about what will need to be added to this timeline after the summit! I will keep updating it as significant events take place.

Did you enjoy this walk through North Korea’s history? If so, why not sign up for my email list and receive notifications when I publish new content! You can also click here to view past interactive content.

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