by Uk-Bae Lee
When Spring Comes to the DMZ speaks of one specific wall that has been in existences since 1945- the Military Demarcation Zone that separates South Korea from North Korea; each with its very own philosophy one of democracy and the other of dictatorship.
In the book, on the last page, the DMZ is described in great detail: The truce that ended the Korean War established the border at the Military Demarcation Line where the two armies had stopped fighting. On either side of the line, about one and a quarter miles back, South and North Korea each put up fences.
Between these fences lies the demilitarized zone or DMZ, which stretches 154 miles from the mouth of the Imjin River in the west to the Goseong in the east. A demilitarized zone means an area with no weapons but there are many heavily armed soldiers on both sides, constantly watching each other across the DMZ.
Only the plant life, animal life, sea life, and insect life are able to escape the affects of the wall and still manage to commune with one another, to live off the land, even if it means crossing the DMZ boundary. It seems war does not affect plant, animal, sea and insect lives the way it affects humanity.
It is fair to say they are more humane than humanity itself when it comes to walls. Somehow they find a way to commune and cross boundaries in peace – unlike their human masters.
Uk-Bae Lee was born in Yongin, South Korea, in 1960 and studied art at Hongik University. In 1986 he joined a group of artists whose murals, cartoons, and woodcuts represented the voice of the poor. He also held free painting classes for factory workers. Later, inspired to make a book for his own young daughter, he began his career as a children’s book illustrator.
In 2010 he published When Spring Comes to the DMZ as a part of the Peace Picture Book Project by illustrators from Korea, China, and Japan. Since then he has often talked to groups of children and parents about how individuals can work for peace. He lives in rural Korea with his wife, who is also a children’s book author, and their children.
In 2009 he was invited to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair as a guest of honor. In 2010 his picture book A Tale of Tales was chosen by the International Board on Books for Young People for its IBBY Honour List.