PUHI — Mark Ombrello and Jon Letman have spent time in South Korea in the past six months, and the two are teaming up Thursday to share their perspectives.
The speakers plan on presenting for about an hour and then fielding questions from 6 to 8 p.m. at Kauai Community College’s One Stop Center during the program, “From Colonization to Militarization: Korea in Context.”
It is free.
While Letman will talk about where the area is at now, Ombrello will shed light on how it got there — how Korea developed into the 20th century.
“(It is) to help people understand the way we’ve understood Korea and the way people in Asia on all sides, a lot of it is based on this idea of ‘othering,’” Ombrello said.
He continued: “That’s the notion that somehow people who are different are a threat and that’s something that (present-day) discourse has led us to. It’s been exacerbated by the way in which the current administration is handling our relationships with our neighbors in East Asia.”
Letman will be talking about the connection between northeast Asia and Kauai’s U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility. In the summer of 2017, he spent 10 days doing a report on the militarized state of the Korean peninsula. Ombrello visited the country for an academic conference.
“Mark, he’s doing the history — colonial history — and I’ll take over and take a look at the state of right now, focusing on South Korea,” Letman said.
Ombrello said a few things jumped out at him during his June trip to Korea, like the presence of survival kits and gas masks in South Korea’s subway system.
“The subways are very deep and you get a sense that you’re in a place where at any moment, something terrible could happen,” he said. “For your average South Korean person, it’s water off of a duck, part of their everyday life.”
The event is a chance for anyone who is interested to gain new perspectives and talk story about the activity happening around Korea, and to better understand the region.
“Every week there’s something new,” Letman said. “People in Hawaii pretty well understand that we’re part of this region, and what happens there, despite what some politicians say, will affect us, even if there isn’t a bomb dropped near Hawaii.”