06/30/2013 10:28 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Glimmer in the Dark

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

As I write this, I am among the hustle and bustle of Seoul -- with its juxtaposition of ancient culture and an emerging technological future. I am currently back in South Korea for a month-long family visit after spending two decades in the United States since coming of age in South Korea. At this point -- my father's stories of the Korean War take on a new poignancy, power, and urgency at this sixty-year anniversary of the Armistice between the North and South. The elders remember with tears and sorrow. My Korean father describes the death of his father and the loss of his family with the same stunned disbelief as Hyeonseo Lee in her fight to survive and tell her tale. My father also fought to stay alive and to preserve family -- from which I am the legacy. My father's generation rarely talks about the events, but as his time draws to a close, I more urgently seek this information. His knowledge and experiences of the war hides in a very dim place. As Korea marks the 63rd anniversary of the start of the Korean War and the 60th anniversary of the cold truce this summer, fewer and fewer Koreans are left who remember the actual events. We must remember the stories and construct the Korean narratives -- both past and present. We must piece together the larger meanings across our living history.

It is hard to understand the full story of the Koreas without the wide lens of age and wisdom. Age is teaching me that. -- Dr. Dohee Kim-Appel

The young live in a different time and view and scarcely seem to notice beyond the view of their smartphones. But, is not human rights and human empathy a concept for all place and time? It is hard to understand the full story of the Koreas without the wide lens of age and wisdom. Age is teaching me that. Soon no one will be left to tell the tales of the Korean war -- and if those are silenced who still have a tale to tell, my fear is that humanity will lose a piece of its collective soul. If one is a prisoner, are we not all in some way, a prisoner also? Hyeonseo Lee fought for her family and their lives. One may not know what they are capable of until tested. Her dark tale with a spark ignited by the kindness of a stranger, reminds us that we are all part of the family of humanity. We must remember this, I believe. Her story has awakened that same hopeful spark in me.

I will take time out in this trip to remember and listen to the stories of my father. I will also travel as far as I can to the border at the North to pray to my ancestors, living and deceased. I will also think of Hyeonseo Lee and those like her -- not lucky enough to survive to make it into the illumination of more freedom. Freedom is indeed a gift we should not squander. The world has many dark places from which we must kindle a light, even if it only a candle. We must not remain in the dark -- or lose our collective family to the darkness. Hyeonseo Lee's story is that flicker in the dark night. We must all learn to be that glimmer. Hope lives in the light.

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