Part 1: the bus arrives
The war that never truly ended, began again over an incredibly minor attack on one’s ego. The two countries had been continuously at each other’s throats since the supposed end of the Korean war. In recent years if a person read the news they would see two things. One, America meddling with the two country’s unstable relationships, always standing behind the South as the big force that no one wants to mess with, but continuously egging on the North. And two, North Korea’s continuous absurd threats and proclamations which it does not follow through on. After his father died, Kim Jong-un seemed ready to surpass his father in these absurdities. As supreme leader of North Korea, he told the world that he was the greatest in a number of unlikely categories (basketball player, leader, superhero, etc), and also his threats to attack, to bomb, to destroy South Korea, came and went with a regularity that they became a joke to much of the world. The son who cried wolf to the world. It seemed that one day he would have to really do it. After the world became passive against him, sure his threats were idle. The boy-turned-dictator of a poor and struggling country. His immaturity was obvious, but that certainly didn’t rule out a failed attack, when his ego told him he must stand up or shut up, no matter if he was doomed to fail.
So recently, once again, things began to heat up in South Korea. There was one difference this time though, I was there, I was there with a class of PSU students who came to teach English and explore the country and culture. I don’t want this to sound like I was some kind of hero in the events that follow though. Oh no, much the opposite, I was merely another observer, witness to some unexpected involvement of my classmates and the attack of Mr. Jong-un, supreme leader of North Korea.
We arrived in Seoul after our teaching at two ten day summer camps, and spend a few days touring the area curtsey of the South Korean government which was hosting us. Then a group of us decided to stay behind in Korea for an extra week after everyone else went home. It was about fifteen of the thirty PSU students, but I shared a hostel with five of those students, with a few other cameo appearances along the way. In Seoul we learned that we could tour the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. It was a chance to say we had visited North Korea, where Americans were definitely not allowed due to our country’s aggressive behavior against their government. But before we had a chance to go we heard news stories that landmines had been planted in the area, and that South Korea would begin a loudspeaker campaign along the border, shouting Anti-communist propaganda, pro-freedom propaganda, and most dangerous of all, K-Pop! One in our group, Grant, seemed wholly unconcerned, so we talked with locals, and they didn’t seem worried. We figured, hey they live with this every day, right on the border of the North, and likely Jong-un’s first target. So fuck it! We went on the tour anyway.
Here is the part about the Jong-un ego. The man who recorded the loudspeaker announcement made a fatal error in formality. In one recording, while reading the dialogue written earlier by a young woman of the South Korean military, he accidentally referred to the supreme leader as oppa, which in Korean is what you call an older man if you are a woman, or if you are romantically involved with someone. So this sounded like the message of a boyfriend talking about his man. Of all the messages there was just this one slipup, this one word deviation of what could be accepted by Mr. Jong-un.
The boys on both the North and South Korean side of the DMZ had a good laugh about the supreme leader’s new sexual orientation. Homosexuality being such a joke to everyone, and still such an unaccepted act for someone, especially the dictator of an entire country, that the joke spread. Murmurs and laughs on behalf of the supreme leader spread all the way up to Jong-un’s palace staff. Until sitting on his patio, napping by the pool, the joke was overheard by the man himself—Jong-un. He arose from his tranquil daydream furious.
“What the fuck did you say?” He screamed at the man, who was behind his personal pool bar. And from the belt of his security officer, he shot the man, already cowering, dead on the spot.
Into his meeting room, Jong-un’s top fifteen advisors met to discuss this rumor. They assured him they could remedy the situation. That they would have the recording changed.
“Who is this man shouting into my country as if he were my boyfriend?”
“Sir, sir, we assure you it is just a propaganda messages, they are trying to stir you,” his advisor pleaded.
“I will kill this man!” Jong-un wailed.
“Sir, sir, please, it is just a recording we will stop it,” the advisor went on.
“I will go down there right now. He wants to suck on something, it can be the barrel of my gun!”
“No, no, sir, please you must not expose yourself, you are safer here,” another advisor pleaded.
“Supreme Leader, you must not go, tonight we have a surprise dinner for you,” the first advisor bargained. “It is your favorite, human baby and mango sticky rice. ”
“Yes sir, and we have three new boys for you to try out, very fresh,” the second continued.
“We have word that it is already changed, sir,” a third stated it. “You spoke and the message complied.”
“No, no,” Jong-un continued. “Prepare my jeep, I go now to confront this man, this coward who lies about me.”
“But sir we do not even know who recorded the message, how can you find him?” A doomed advisor put in.
“You, shut up!” Boomed Jong-un, upholstering his gun. “I will go find this man with the booming voice, I am the supreme leader! You dare think there is anything I can’t do?”
“No, no, sir. Sorry sir,” the doomed man cried. But it was too late, he was shot down in his chair. The rest of the advisors quieted immediately and fell in line.
“You jeep is ready sir,” entered a new voice, followed by complies, of encouragement to the supreme leader.
“I have the biggest dong!” Jong-un cheered.
Part 2: Danze-off
At that time I was starting the DMZ the tour. Our group was solely myself and the other Portlanders from my hostel: Tabina and Grant, the inseparable duo of cocktails and long naps. Summer and Lily, the dance crazy clubbers, and most productive of the group. Myself and Daniel, the old men. The six of us had been out late the night before, but still made the 7am wakeup call to go on the tour. We were all a little delirious, save for Lily, who was smart enough not to drink all you can handle sugar bomb cocktails at Ho Bar XXVII.
The DMZ tour began with a look across a giant green field at North Korea on the other side. We could see the guards from both sides with binoculars, and could faintly hear the loudspeakers blaring in Korean. Our guide gave us a history of the conflict between the two countries, and how this four kilometer wide, heavily guarded, piece of land separated the two countries. The tour seemed like it would be pretty boring, just an opportunity to say you had stepped foot in North Korea, but the day was still young. At around noon we went further into the DMZ over an old bridge, and unloaded from the bus. The North Korean officers were about a hundred meters away, and hardly noticed us tourists, just a normal day on duty.
Now up close the loudspeakers boomed in Korean, and the soldiers stood in their green military kakis, legs apart and AK47’s in hand. It really was very cool, this part of the tour. We looked at these soldiers, people who would likely love to raise their guns and fire a few hunks of lead our way. A big fuck you to us tourists, gawking at them in their poverty and lack of freedom. Like the kid at the zoo, pounding on the Gorilla glass, pointing and laughing at one he thinks inferior. Though cruel in some respects, it was incredibly exciting, what danger lay across the invisible line that divided the DMZ from North Korea?
Then, as we looked them over, and talked amongst ourselves, they began to stir. Shouts came, and the guards on the frontlines got close, and as word traveled between them, they became visibly disturbed. Many seemed not to know what to do, they waved their hands in the air, rifles still slung over their shoulders, and saluted those who had approached. The new men pointed fingers, and though silent from our positions, yells were visible. Some ran off, others got into guard position awkwardly and with too much show.
We were all still in the phase of saying “What the fuck” amongst each other, trying to understand…when we saw the man, the man himself, Kim Jong-un, come barreling up between them. We of course didn’t have any idea who he was, but he seemed important. He wore a finer blue and gold uniform, metals and military decorations covered his chest, and they all gave him so much space, so much fearful respect, that we knew this man was special. Now we were silent, but that silence was broken when he pulled out a gun and fired multiple shots in to a guy on the front lines, one who had turned to him to answer question.
“Whoa shit, don’t mess with that man,” Grand laughed, never phased too much.
The tour guides who had come with us, began to run towards a building behind us, and to speak rapidly in Korean. We followed them inside, where we found Korean soldiers, quiet and glued to a panel cut into the brick building which allowed you to look out.
“Don’t worry, don’t worry. Everything will be alright,” the guide told us without a hint of belief in his voice. He was practically peeing his pants.
We babbled amongst ourselves of what to do. Grant seemed unmoved by the events, he joked of the craziness of the man with the gun. Tabina smacked him. Daniel tried to reassure us that we would get on the bus and leave. Lilly, Summer and me tried to stay calm, but we talked to fast and jumped to conclusions (some correct). Basically everyone was in shock at just seeing a murder, and at the fear of all of the guards around us.
The men at the window shrieked, and tensely yelled at each other. One backed up and went into the bathroom, we didn’t see him come out till everything had transpired. I pushed my way up to see what was happening, just in time to see the man with all the metals and his entourage of guards, rush past the window.
The door opened. Guns drawn the men entered and the lined the insides of the small room, yelling at us. We got our hands up, and some got down on the ground. We could not understand the shouts of the man with the metals that came next, but later we were told he wanted to know who was yelling across the border? Who was calling him a gay man?
The South Koreans inside lay quiet. I looked around at every person, and fear covered the faces of our Korean friends, and most of my group from the states. Grant still seemed slightly amused by the situation, like this was a damn good show, and Summer, something in Summer was not right. She looked like she was going to do something. In my mind I screamed No, just submit! I tried to make eye contact with her, but she would not look over, her stare was trained on the man in charge of the room, yelling at all of us. And then it happened. Summer—the tall wavy haired, dancing queen from Lake Oswego—spoke.
“Uh, can someone tell us what is going on? Maybe we are just in the way?”
Jong-un stopped speaking and looked at her, and I think something in Summer must have snapped, she couldn’t take anymore.
“Yeah? What do you want from us little man?”
Well Jong-un didn’t take being talked to in this tone very well. He came up to her shouting and put a giant, shining, silver hand cannon in her face. But the look Summer had was hard to interpret. She seemed more angry than scared. Standing a shoulder above this man, who seemed so powerful, she was cautious, but she looked dangerous as hell.
Breaking the silence that we were all feeling, the silence of guns drawn and unanswered questions. Fittingly, the loud speaker changed from monotonous speech, to “Good Luck,” a past number one K-Pop hit. As it slowly led in, beats swaying and mysterious, Jong-un began to move from side to side slowly, his finger came up and snapped with the beat. And with the first solo by Beast’s Jun-hyung, the supreme leader’s eyes shifted to the ceiling in an overly empathetic connection to the song.
“Why, why you leave me alone. Baby,” the emotional lyrics cried. “I’m still, still, loving you…”
When the song quickly built and broke with distorted electronic beats into a chaotic futuristic dance, seeming unable to contain herself Summer’s hips began to jerk. Her arms went over her head and she looked down and Jong-un, gun still pointing at her, and began to menacingly shake her shoulders. A taunt, and telling of no, you can’t threaten me. A challenge was made, plain to see by all who could feel the music and energy exploding in the room.
Now I want you to know where I was right now. I was screaming in my brain, Noooo, what the fuck are you doing Summer, he is going to kill us all!
Instead, Jong-un lowered the gun, looked her in the eyes, and started twerking like you have never seem a short chubby, man in uniform do. The metals on his chest began to jingle—like the starting bell of an Olympic event. The two crazy people in the room went off, dance battle begun.
With the next song we were all marched outside, and the battle continued. We lined up. Grant again seemed unconcerned with the gun in his back, turning and telling the guy to knock it off. Tabina was rooting her girl on. Lily seemed to be making eye contact and gestures with one of the cuter North Korean guards, maybe her future husband. Grandpa Dan was telling Summer to cool it, quite aware that we might all be killed here.
For three more songs they battled. Jong-un’s demeanor became much more fun alive, but he never put his gun down, never did the unstable danger leave his eyes. Visible heat waves surfed the desolate baked earth, which seemed to emanate heat, and they both sweated like crazy, but Summer seemed to be winning in terms of moral and the crowd applause that decide in a dance battle.
“Ka-kao!” Simultaniously all of our phones sounded with a new Kakao Talk message. It was from Mary-Jo asking if we wanted to hang out tonight.
We are kind of busy right now, Daniel texted.
After this epic dance battle maybe, Grant replied.
Big Bang came on next. Bang Bang Bang. We knew this song well, we danced to if for our fifth grade class dance competition. Summer’s hands came up, clapping to the beat, swaying and jerking, all perfectly with the music, this was not freestyle, at least not the first forty-five seconds of the song. Then the gait of her dancing began to take her backward, step by step towards North Korea, into the middle of the DMZ.
“No.” Yelled our guide, but she could not hear him.
Jong-un followed her, but he was not dancing, he was walking, strong struts, his pistol down at his side.
Summer finished the song, she had danced like a wild god, dirt flew in the air, fake guns flying. In the style of Big Bang, she was over the top bad ass. It was a huge production, a show of who is the shit, and who is shit. It was violent, sexual, and full of a style that said, you can’t stop this. And then she stood staring at him, waiting for his next move, confident that he could not better what she had just given.
Kim Jong-un looked at her, his anger swelled and consumed into a calm, and he played the final move. He raised his arm, the silver of the pistol, catching light as it aimed death at Summer. Then a laugh came from him, demonic as it bellowed from his gut and hastened into a maniacal cackle. His finger on the trigger, he took a step closer to Summer.
In an instant Kim Jong-un was torn to a million pieces by one of his own country’s landmines, and sprayed onto everyone. A finger here, some bone fragments there. I gold ring smacked me in the cheek (I took it as a souvenir.)
And that was it. Event closed. Winner decided. The North Koreans went back to the north, minus one who tried to accompany Lily, only to be shut out by the other South Koreans. We got into the bus, used moist towellets to clean off the blood, and went back to our hostel.
Ho Bar again tonight? Then Ocean club, Summer is hot tonight! Tabina texted to the other PSU students of our group.
And that’s the story of how North Korea got their new president, Kim Jong-sung