Russia Conscripts Ukrainians: Tragedy of Korean War Repeats
Putin’s Russia started to conscript men from Russia-occupied Ukrainian land (source). But do you know the worst part has not happened yet? The most profound tragedy of war will soon begin: Family and friends meeting as enemies.
Imagine yourself on a battlefield, looking at the enemy side, but see your childhood friends and cousins at the front line. The battle begins, and they are running toward your trench. Can you pull the trigger?
Bhagavad Gita, the holy Hindu scripture dated to around 200 BCE, surprisingly depicts a similar tragedy. Arjuna, the prince of Kuru, gets involved in a civil war against his cousins. On the other side of the battlefield, Arjuna sees his family and falls in despair:
Arjuna: There the son of Pritha saw standing fathers and grandfathers, as well as teachers, uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, friends, fathers-in-law, and even allies in both armies.
–Baghavad Gita Chapter 1 Verse 28~31
Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, the god, convinces Arjuna to fight the battle. The battle is between order and greed, and Arjuna’s role is to finish the already started war and reinstate justice at the end:
Krishna: The senses are superior to the gross body, and superior to the senses is the mind. Beyond the mind is the intellect, and even beyond the intellect is the soul. Thus knowing the soul to be superior to the material intellect, O mighty armed Arjun, subdue the lower self (senses, mind, and intellect) by the higher self (strength of the soul), and kill this formidable enemy called lust.
–Baghavad Gita Chapter 3 Verse 42~43
As shown in the ancient holy scripture, once the war starts, there is no pause until it concludes. Two ideologies fight for justice, which the winner of violence earns. War forces people to offer their lives and things they value more than their lives. Memory, hope, and future with your loved ones get cheaply betted on the table of war games like it is worth nothing. In 2022, the same tragedy of war repeats in Ukraine, and it seems the war will not end until the entire cycle of destruction and tragedy completes.
I cannot help compare this war with the Korean War, one of the cruelest wars in modern history. Based on what happened during Korean War, we may be able to predict the future of people in Russian-occupied Ukraine.
In July of 1950, North Korea invaded Seoul. Communists in Seoul announced that the army arrived to “salvage” citizens from mutiny. At the same time, they conscripted 40,000 South Korean men, ages 19 to 37, for their military. They initiated the looting of food and resources, which caused massacres by starvation. Three months later, the population of Seoul decreased to one-third (source).
The Korean War, which prolonged for three more years after that, was tragic because it caused families and friends to point guns at each other. Koreans were forced to be divided in half depending on their geographic location; north or south. Front lines went back and forth too often, which meant the North conscripted one man from the same town, and later the South conscripted his friend or brother. The whole village was often decimated for ‘hiding the enemy soldier’ or ‘yielding to the enemy when occupied.’ At one point, citizens of Seoul had to prepare flags of both South and North depending on who parades into the gateway. Sad comedy.
It hurts me so much to think such a tragedy is happening today. I hate to speculate how the conscription will go in Russia, but the worst thing has not yet happened. When Russian-occupied Ukrainians get sent to war, the whole generation of the village will suffer violence from both sides. The front line will be pushed and pulled, which can cause villagers in the area to prepare the flags of Russia and Ukraine. Their sons and husbands can be separated into different sides. After the war ends, no matter who wins, leftover citizens are vulnerable to a harsh military court and scapegoated as betrayers.
First, the war should end soon. Second, we must show mercy. Third, we must deeply sympathize with everyone wounded and share the pain of tragedy, hoping we don’t pull the war trigger again.