I wish my Grandfather were still alive so that I could ask him what he thinks about the passing of North Korea’s Kim Jung Il. My Grandfather was a very wise and gracious man. He never made an unfavorable comment about anyone (except this one South Korean president from the ‘80s). He’s the man who always spoke highly of Japan, its people, the country, the customs, even though he was directly affected by the occupation of Korea by the very same people. So, I wonder if he would have mixed feelings like some of the Korean Americans from North Korea are experiencing over Kim’s death.
I heard so many different stories of my Grandfather’s life, that it didn’t really hit me until he died that my family is from North Korea (before it was called North Korea). In fact, both sets of my grandparents are from the North. I (repeatedly) heard stories of all of my grandparents escaping the North when the Korean War broke out, just in the nick of time. I guess when I was little, I listened to those stories haphazardly. It wasn’t until a few years ago, did I really begin to understand how crucial it was for me, my siblings and my cousins that my grandparents escaped when they did.
And while I grew up fearing what the unpredictable leaders of North Korea would do to South Korea or any other country they saw as an enemy, I find myself wrestling with mixed feelings as well over Kim’s death. I’m glad the horrible, oppressive leader is dead. But as horrible as he was, I’m not sure the suffering of his people will end with his death. And I just keep wondering what profound comment my Grandfather would have made about Kim’s passing and the state of North Korea.