Sunday December 16th, 2018 10:45AM

The AP Asks: What would South Koreans ask a North Korean?

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The Koreas share a border, a culture and a language. But 70 years after they were separated, North and South are about as divided as divided gets.

With almost any kind of contact blocked or barred or banned by law, the gap between them has grown to the point where they almost seem like strangers in many ways. And while the Pyeongchang Olympics have brought North Korean athletes, musicians, martial artists, singers and cheering squads flooding into the South, tight security means it's still almost impossible for either side to interact.

So, embedded in a crowd of excited South Korean Olympic fans waiting to get into a united Korea women's ice hockey match, The Associated Press posed a question:

If you had the chance, what would you ask a North Korean?

(Quick note: Our reporter Kim Tong-hyung had a question, too. It's at the bottom.)



Lee So-mi, a 28-year-old jobseeker, said she was curious about life in North Korea. But when asked what she would say if the chance ever actually arose, she giggled and struggled to come up with ideas. She wondered about what life would be like in a society where she imagines there is little personal freedom.

But she couldn't imagine asking a North Korean directly about it.

Her question:

"If you are a (North Korean) woman in your late 20s ... Oh, how do I say this? Marriage life? Jobs? I want to ask about those things, like whether life is good for them."

But, she added quickly, "You really can't ask them so straightforwardly."

When asked how she might delicately phrase such the question, she burst into laughter and said, "I don't know! It's too hard!



Office worker Kim Jae-in, 54, said he doesn't think North Korea's bad because — nukes and all — it's doing what it's doing "just to survive."

"North Koreans are part of the same nation with us. They are pursuing their own ways just to survive. I don't have bad things to say about that."

His question:

"I want to ask whether they really want unification. Of course, our brethren in North Korea would want unification, but what kind of unification would that be? We in the South want a democratic peaceful unification, while they might want a socialist unification. There could be differences."



Park Jin-woo, a 14-year-old middle school student, came to the game with his father, a newspaper reporter. He went right to what he's been taught about the North and said his opinions have been changing, and not just because of the Olympics.

"I first thought they were bad. But after learning in school, I now have good thoughts about them. They are not people with cold hearts — the North Koreans are part of our nation."

His question:

"I want to ask whether they want unification with South Korea. It would be great for all of us if we can unify with our friends in North Korea. I would like to think that our friends in North Korea would think that unification will happen, and want it to happen."



Hong Seong-hun, a 59-year-old pipe organ designer, said he didn't know there would be a joint North-South team when he reserved the ice hockey tickets. He said the flurry of diplomacy and conciliatory measures between the Koreas over the North's participation in the Olympics made him "giddy like I am a child again."

"We don't know much about North Korea. But considering their characteristics, they would be a truly rigid society. There's no other country like that in the world. Any narrow-mindedness they might have, I hope that we could help change that."

His question:

"Well, even the language is different now, and we would need to unify that first. We would need a lot of talk to overcome cultural differences. Maybe we can start with food — that would help us understand their thoughts and emotions and change the views we had about each other. ... We only have a superficial understanding of North Korean food. What can North Korea tell us about itself through its food?

"Maybe if we talk a lot of about food, we will begin to understand each other."



Seoul-based AP writer Kim Tong-hyung, who's a South Korean, too, did most of the question-asking for this story. And he has one of his own.

His question: "What would you do if you had a day in Seoul? I'm really interested in what they think of South Korean culture. I think their answer would reveal a lot about that."


Eric Talmadge, the AP's Pyongyang bureau chief, is on assignment in Pyeongchang. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @erictalmadge. Follow Kim Tong-hyung at @kimtonghyung.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News
© Copyright 2018
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The AP Asks: What would South Koreans ask a North Korean?
With rare influx of North Koreans at the Pyeongchang Olympics, AP asks South Korean Olympic fans a question: If you had the chance, what would you ask a North Korean?
1:25AM ( 4 minutes ago )
The Latest: Shaun White wins Olympic halfpipe qualifying
Shaun White has won halfpipe qualifying at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games and will drop in last for what's shaping up as an epic final
1:24AM ( 5 minutes ago )
Democrats retain Minnesota Senate seat in swing territory
Democrats in Minnesota are claiming more evidence of momentum after they retained a state Senate seat in a special election
1:21AM ( 9 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
South Africa's ruling party struggles with Zuma dilemma
Leaders of South Africa's ruling ANC party are struggling to remove President Jacob Zuma from office amid media reports that he asked for concessions in exchange for his resignation
12:50AM ( 40 minutes ago )
The Latest: Zapolski to start in goal for US Olympic opener
Ryan Zapolski will start in goal for the U.S. men's hockey team in its opener against Slovenia
12:31AM ( 58 minutes ago )
Official: US believes ex-Venezuela oil czar took bribes
U.S. prosecutors believe Venezuela's former oil czar received bribes as part of a major graft scheme that allegedly took place in the OPEC nation's oil industry, says an American official familiar with the probe
12:00AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP World News
The Latest: Shaun White wins Olympic halfpipe qualifying
Shaun White has won halfpipe qualifying at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games and will drop in last for what's shaping up as an epic final
1:24AM ( 5 minutes ago )
Trump has a tweet for everything, but none yet for Olympics
President Donald Trump has a tweet for just about everything, but so far he's got nothing for Team USA.
1:14AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Olympic figure skating unveils new, modern soundtrack
There is a decidedly different soundtrack to figure skating at the Pyeongchang Olympics now that all programs are allowed lyrics in their music
1:10AM ( 19 minutes ago )
Trump budget again targets regional water cleanup programs
President Donald Trump again trying to drastically reduce or eliminate federal support for cleanups of some iconic US waterways
1:09AM ( 20 minutes ago )
US tells anti-ISIS coalition to 'keep eyes on prize'
Trump administration increasingly concerned the 74-strong coalition it cobbled together to destroy the Islamic State group is losing sight of the prime objective
1:09AM ( 20 minutes ago )