Hwang So-hee20th Central Committee member, The Peaceful Unification Advisory Council Escape from Mogadishu movie poster One of the most talked-about movies released last year was Escape from Mogadishu, the true story of South and North Korean diplomats who cooperated to escape from the Somali capital Mogadishu when civil war broke out. In the film, though their nations were engaged in fierce competition, the North and South Korean officials worked together to overcome their difficulties on the African continent, emphasizing a code of Korean nationalism. Though the two sides slander each other, there is a familiar code of nationalism in which they can sit facing each other, using chopsticks to eat the same side dishes and communicate very easily with one another. Whoever sees this film will be re-sensitized to peace and unification and will contemplate the common ethnic identity of South and North Koreans. The most striking moment in the film is the scene when Mogadishu children take up submachine guns, weapons of killing, and laughing brightly with no hesitation fire them at random into the air, without any adults intervening. The civil war was justified as valid for liberation from an oppressive, dictatorial regime, so it created an environment where violence was promoted in order to attain this end and the anti-government forces possessed the pretext of liberation to justify their violence. This situation can easily be found in the real world, where violence becomes a part of communal values and methods. The use even of child soldiers, immature in thinking and in body, as weapons of war is representative of war’s brutality. Child Soldiers and War “Mother! I killed people, about 10 people, through a stone wall. (…) Why must there be war? I think I have to tell you about my complicated and distressing feelings so that my heart can rest easy.” screenshot of student soldiers from the film ⓒ 71 In to the Fire This is an excerpt from a letter left by Lee Woo Geun, a child soldier who fought and died in the Korean War. The movie 71 In to the Fire dramatizes the story of the 71 child soldiers who died in the Battle of P’ohang-dong, protecting the Nakdong river front. Less than 19 year-old (less than 20 in Korean age) students fired guns with shaking hands, resisting the People’s Army to the last. It was not just a story for film. Admitting to throwing a grenade and killing People’s Army soldiers, feeling distressed about shooting fellow Koreans who, though enemies, shared the same language and blood, fears of imminent death, longing to see his mother, the earnest resolve to come home alive - such were the contents of the letter. The movie ends not with regret for the extreme times that made children take up arms, but portraying their unfortunate deaths for the fatherland and as a lofty sacrifice to oppose communism. The problem is that when any kind of violence is rationalized and accepted as a community value and a method of community order, it limits the space to ponder, “What kind of human must we be?” If the children who took up arms in Mogadishu are “the people” (or populace), agents of social revolution and overthrow, oppressed by those in power, they can be comparable to “citizens” who exercise legal sovereignty, but “nationals” subordinated to and recruited by the state, even at a young age, may be thrown "into the fire” for their fatherland. While the state’s strongest ideology, “nationalism,” unifies the citizens and emphasizes common blood and language, this common identity is grounded in imagination and can be used to divide people into “us and them” in accordance with nationality. Child soldiers of Moro National Liberation Front(MNLF), Philippines Under the solemn expression “A nation that forgets its past has no future,” the cruelty of Japanese colonization at the end of the Joseon dynasty is unreservedly emphasized to lower elementary age students, and they learn about the fighting spirit of the independence activists, including their use of bombs and assassinations, saying that it was for the cause of justice. It should not be misunderstood from this article that the sacrifice of the independence activists, the death of the child soldiers into the fire, and the resistance by the children in far-off Mogadishu is in vain, meaningless, or wrong. If there is no consideration and contrition for the background of the tragic situation and the reason why it happened, then it only emphasizes some kind of justification that people, nations, and nationalism are doomed to be exposed to violence. And when such a justification is accepted, it implies that if a similar situation occurs, similar choices must be made. What would be important here is the overlapping and the conflict of the scope of identities as people, nations or nationalism are formed according the relationship between the individual and the state. The borders around people, nations, and nationalism In the process of establishment of relations with North Korea, the overlap and conflict among the concepts of people, nations, and nationalism makes for an unexpected situation. If we only remember that the 71 child soldiers were sacrificed “into the fire” to protect their sacred fatherland from North Korea, we become silent regarding those independence activists who devoted themselves for the independence of Joseon and chose North Korea rather than South Korea after division. Promoting national reconciliation and unity, it becomes ambiguous how one should evaluate the martyrs who sacrificed themselves for their fatherland on both sides of the Korean War. Concern arose in public discourse when, among those who hold to the identity of the oppressed people and nationalism, a few extremists devoted to the radical philosophy that the South Korean government and constitutional order must be overthrown instigated to destroy national infrastructure, to manufacture bombs, and to jam communications in a state of emergency on the Korean Peninsula. Military conflicts among ethnic groups still exist around the world, and there are many conflict areas where resistance to unreasonable systems intensifies into civil wars until it is impossible to say who is in the wrong. Whatever was true in the past, remembering that we must now choose a nonviolent, peaceful way, it is clear that individuals must choose relationships to the state according to which identity concept best coincides with peace and nonviolence. Do we bury ourselves in a particular identity or do we flexibly choose an identity based on nonviolent and peaceful means according to the situation and the environment? So, I want to ask you, What is the face of your humanity?