Friday, March 29, 2019

CRC Review on the Juvenile Fiction Picture Book WHEN SPRING COMES TO THE DMZ . . .

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CRC Review:


by Uk-Bae Lee

       History has taught us that walls – both invisible and visible – have caused more evil than good.  It splits families, destroys life and is the perfect recipe for war – wars that can last for decades – long after the so called war has ended – for some reason with walls – war continues indefinitely.
     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.

          Korea as one unified country was under the leadership of Japan from 1910 until 1945 when the country was split into the South and the North along the 38th parallel.   In 1950 the Korean War began – much like the American Civil War – between the North and the South – separating brother from brother, causing brother to fight against brother.

     This Juveniles Fiction picture book When Spring Comes to the DMZ is written and illustrated by UK-Bae Lee in Korean; and translated into English by Chungyon Won and Aileen Won; and is published by Plough Publications on March 8, 2019.
          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.
     In When Spring Comes to the DMZ Grandfather and Grandson climb the numerous steps to get to the observatory so they can look into North Korea, the land that is forbidden for them to cross; the land that some of Grandfather’s family members and friends still inhabit to this day; a land and a family he can have no contact with.
They visit the DMZ in the spring, summer, autumn, and winter to witness the miracles of animal, sea, insect, and plant life communing with one another and moving freely across the boundary and doing it all in peaceful harmony even amongst the Korean conflict that continues to plague North Korea, South Korea, and United States relations to this very day. By the next Spring, Grandfather is discouraged or tired or too old to climb the stairs to look at the DMZ. 
     It appears Grandson is telling the story specifically toward the end of the book where there is a two-page spread of the wall where Grandson invites the reader to do what Grandfather wants to do:  Grandfather wants to fling the tightly locked gates wide open.  And the reader can’t help but open the two-page spread to tear down the wall and discover the four-page spread of all of North and South Korea with no wall and no conflict.  And that makes for a hopeful ending.

     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. 
     Well known in Korea, Uk-Bae Lee is an award-winning illustrator. In 1999, his first picture book, Sori's Harvest Moon Day, was published in English.   


        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.

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