This I Believe

David - Ellicott City, Maryland
Entered on November 26, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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Freedom Is A Great Thing

Based on my past experiences in Korea, I believe that every American should be thankful that they have the opportunity to enjoy unrestrained freedom. When I was seven, my father got a teaching job at a South Korean university. For nearly two years, he lived in Seoul by himself in an effort to ensure that his children would not have a problem adapting to Korea. During that time, my mother and I lived in my grandmother’s house. Eventually, a call from my father beckoned us from halfway across the world.

Thereafter, I traveled for nearly 17 hours with my mother to Seoul, South Korea start a new chapter in my life. During my time in the country, I learned that South Koreans have only recently been allowed to enjoy the freedoms which are a part of modern democratic countries. Unfortunately, the freedom enjoyed by South Koreans today is ‘restrained’ by the economic situation in the country as well as traditions from the past and present.

My experiences in South Korea made me realize that freedom is a great thing which should never be taken for granted. When I attended the fourth grade in South Korea, I found that the freedom available to Korean students is ‘restrained’. The students in South Korea pay to attend primary and secondary school, which they attend for six days of the week. The students are typically forced to wear uniforms, stay after school every other week to clean the floors of classrooms and must bow to their elders or face stiff consequences. After school, South Korean students often have tutoring because education has traditionally been regarded as important in the country. After a South Korean student graduates secondary school, they serve the required military service time because the country is still at war with North Korea.

When I toured the demilitarized zone (DMZ) along the 38th parallel, I found that North Korea has messages clearly visible with binoculars that declare North Korea to be the essence of the ‘democratic country.’ While I toured the neutral border city of Panmeunjom, I learned from historians that the North Korean government often gave its citizens leaflets which declared the United States as an imperialist country ruled by a dictator. I also learned that this same country has gulags which are used to starve and/or torture anyone who speaks against its totalitarian ruler, Kim Jong Il. Even further, I learned that in North Korea trust is nonexistent because family members, including children, are taught to spy on one another. Perhaps the most tragic thing I learned about North Korea is that the only religion allowed by the government is the worship of Kim Jong Il.

I believe that too often Americans take for granted the freedom they are given. Although I may not always agree politically with the political leadership in America, I believe that Americans should be thankful of the unrestrained freedom they are allowed to enjoy.