When Spring Comes to the DMZ by Uk-Bae Lee
|When Spring Comes to the DMZ by Uk-Bae Lee|
|Category: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: I've given books for this age range five stars for nailing an obvious moral – this has a non-obvious moral, and I'll leave it at that.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 40||Date: March 2019|
|Publisher: Plough Publishing House|
There is a place on this earth that, at the time of writing, is resplendent with life. In the spring seals gambol in the river – not venturing too far, for fear of being slashed open on the razor wire the humans have put in place. In the autumn, salmon come upstream, looking doleful as well they might, for they will spawn and die, if they reach their birthing grounds. Mountain goats gambol prettily among the hills – if the landmines men left behind do not prevent them from doing so. This is a snapshot of life in the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between the two countries with Korea in their name, and it's the world's least welcome wildlife sanctuary.
This is just such a wonderful, superlative picture book. Yes, it has animals gambolling, but it has man-made wire constructs and borders in every frame. It takes us through a year's nature watch, but it also shows the effects the seasons have on an elderly gent who bears reluctant witness to the DMZ's existence. It ends with such an impactful moral – thumped in a welcome way across a whopping eight-page fold-out spread – that it can only get five stars.
And therein lies the twist. I'd have always thought that if a space could be used by wildlife or humans, the better choice would be for it being used by wildlife. But the DMZ is a rare case – a place that humans cannot go, for the worst reasons. So this accidental animal sanctuary – bursting with diverse life, as the lovely artwork here proves – ought perhaps to be forgotten about, torn down and returned to use by mankind. You'll be reminded of what happened when the border between East and West Germany was torn down – the whole space beyond the Berlin environs became Europe's longest, thinnest nature reserve once the barriers men put up against other men ceased to exist. Well here the barriers are still up, and the nature still thrives. To everyone's detriment.
That paradox is a lesson to everyone. You may hate the North's ruling family and their monomaniacal attitudes; you may hate Trump for kowtowing to a nuclear country; you may hate every American that swallows its military's self-serving propaganda about the threat the DPRK allegedly holds. You may well come to these pages knowing nothing of the history behind the DMZ. I did say both countries have Korea in their name – well, both have Korean-ness in their hearts and minds. And these Disneyfied animals will force your young reader to engage with a staggering circumstance in staggering ways. You'll even find yourself discussing the end-papers with them. It's no surprise that we urge this book upon your consideration.
For North Korea in pictorial form – if for adults – the only place to turn is Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle.
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You can read more book reviews or buy When Spring Comes to the DMZ by Uk-Bae Lee at Amazon.com.
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