October 3, 2010

Together...and Apart:

Unity Day in Germany
National Foundation Day in Korea

Today is Unity Day in Germany, celebrating the formal reunification of East and West Germany in 1990.

A more dramatic anniversary to celebrate might have been the day the Berlin Wall came down—which was November 9, 1989—but November 9 was also the anniversary of the Nazis' first large-scale pogrom against Jews (Kristallinacht), so the October date was chosen for the annual observance.

Germany was divided from 1949 until the reunification. East Germany was a communist country aligned with the Soviet Union, and some would say a puppet government of the Soviets. West Germany was a free-market nation with fair democratic elections.

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Today is also Gaecheonjeol, or Foundation Day, in South Korea. This day celebrates the creation of the state of Gojoseon (ancient Korea) in the year 2333 BC (BCE).

Korea was united until 1948, when it was split into communist North Korea and free-market, democratic South Korea. 

Sadly, the two nations are still split.

When a nation is divided...

...some people are separated from their families.

Millions of Koreans were separated by the division of Korea and the Korean War. The war didn't end with a peace treaty, but instead only a cease fire. That means that, technically, the two Koreas are still at war. And that means that most people are not allowed to send mail or packages across the Korean border, let alone make calls or visits.

Luckily, there have been some efforts to hold family reunions through face-to-face meetings or video. Since 2000 more than 20,800 Koreans have enjoyed at least brief reunions. The visits were halted because of the sinking of a South Korean warship (South Korea blames North Korea for the sinking), but the reunions are slated to begin again this month.

The fall of a wall...

When World War II was over, a portion of Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union. The USSR was supposed to work on reconstructing Germany and to help it to become self-sufficient again. However, it was soon clear that the Soviet army was instead exerting unwarranted control over its region, making it into a satellite communist state.

The Soviet-controlled portion of Germany became commonly called East Germany. Unfortunately, the capital city of Germany was located in East Germany—and a portion of that city was occupied by British, French, and U.S. troops and was therefore not aligned with the Soviets. The dictator of the USSR, Joseph Stalin, began the Berlin Blockade, not allowing food or other supplies to enter West Berlin. In response, Western countries like the US, UK, Australia, and many more began a massive airlift to carry needed supplies to West Germany by plane. The air forces of the UK and US alone made more than 200,000 flights in one year—providing 13,000 tons of daily necessities. The success of the airlift embarrassed the Soviets, and eventually Stalin lifted the blockade.

If there were more than 200,000 flights in one year, how many were there per day?


In 1961 the Soviets built a wall to divide the communist eastern portion of Berlin from the western portions. Soviet propaganda stated that the wall was to keep fascism out of the east, but in reality it served to prevent people leaving the east for the freedom enjoyed in the west. When this Berlin Wall was finally torn down in 1989, the chunks and pieces of the wall became symbols of freedom and hope. I have seen several chunks of the Berlin Wall displayed in gardens or as sculpture, and they are a moving reminder of the fact that Germany is reunified into one nation again.

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