They play ice hockey in South Korea. They became interested in it during the Korean War, watching Canadian troops in action.
That was one of the pieces of trivia I picked up last month when I was invited to dinner at the Korean Embassy, a meal coupled with a briefing on Canada-Korea relations. Strictly speaking, attending such events is outside my Parliamentary duties, but I was interested so I went.
That first hockey game took place more than 60 years ago on a frozen river. Facing off against each other were soldiers from the Royal 22nd Regiment and Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, two storied units of the Canadian military. Our Korean host for the evening expressed some surprise that troops entering a war zone would have brought hockey equipment with them. That didn’t surprise me though. Hockey is ingrained in our national psyche. Our troops played it in Afghanistan, though there they had to do it without skates because there was no ice.
The evening had its share of facts and figures. I hadn’t realized just how big the trading relationship is between Canada and South Korea. Not surprising that I didn’t know it, I’m not a trade guy. But it did give me pause for thought to think that South Koreans eat more than $32 million dollars worth of Canadian lobster each year, shipped live by the jumbo jet load from Halifax, each plane carrying 50-100 tonnes of crustacean.
The real topic of the evening though was not trade but relations between the two Koreas, and the North’s relationship with the rest of the world. I can’t say that I heard anything I didn’t know before, about the prison camps and food shortage, the executions, brainwashing and nuclear weaponry. But it brings a different perspective when it is more concrete than abstract. I’m in eastern Canada. North Korean nuclear weapons don’t threaten me. For our hosts of the evening it was a different story. I should have asked what it was like living under a nuclear shadow, especially when the person at the top of the command structure is, at the very least, cavalier in his valuing of human life, if not certifiably crazy.
North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world, led by one of the most oppressive regimes. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and that was made evident by a photo in one of the PowerPoint slides which I did find a version online to reproduce for you below.
It is a picture of the Korean peninsula. On the bottom is the south, a blaze of light. On the top is the north, swathed in darkness.
That kind of says it all.