Inflammation and stories on families

In a bid to better relations with its southward neighbor, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea has agreed to allow family reunions with The Republic of Korea for those separated during the Korean War. Initially proposed by President Park Geun-hye early in 2014, the reunion was promptly rejected by North Korea.

However, a news conference from the North Koreans communicated the acceptance of the proposal under the guise of improving relations between the two countries. Between 1985 and 2010, over 22,000 individuals have been reunited with their families as organized by both governments on the peninsula, reports The New York Times.

This development comes as a result of South Korea’s prompt to its northern neighbor to prove their desire to reconcile citing a letter from North Korea which relayed the message of “reconciliation and unity” with South Korea. The letter comes from the National Defense Commission and more directly, Kim Jong-un himself. “The DPRK [North Korea] has already unilaterally opted for halting all acts of getting on the nerves of South Korea and slandering it,” reports the BBC.

However, South Korea and its military ally, the United States, remain wary of either proposal. Previous military provocations despite periodic peace concessions from North Korea keep the two allied nations skeptic. A North Korean disarmament of nuclear arms remains to be realized and this new development may just be another power play from the North.

Furthermore, “Foal Eagle” maneuvers, annual military drills between South Korea and the U.S., are often met with aggression from North Korea. In 2013, North Korea threatened both nations with pre-emptive nuclear strikes, viewing the military collaboration as acts of aggression against the People’s Republic.

“Foal Eagle” will consist of around 10,000 soldiers from both South Korea and the U.S. and is set to begin in February.

In its open letter, North Korea has asked to stop the military drills, to which the U.S. has responded with a clear no—the drills will continue as planned.

Whether or not North Korea is serious in its calls for reconciliation remains to be seen, as will most likely become clear as the joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises begin.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: BBC, CNN, New York Times
Photo: Borgen

In late December 2013, China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress formally introduced measures to ease its notorious one-child policy.

The major tweak of the one-child policy now allows parents to conceive a second child if just one of the parents is an only child.

Previously, parents were allowed a second child only if each parent was an only child. Rural couples on the other hand, were allowed a second child only if the first born was female.

The new measures will be implemented in a phased process at the local level. Furthermore, provincial leaders now have the authority to introduce the changes in accordance with local demographic needs.

While modest, the change will hopefully reduce the number of human rights abuses perpetrated against Chinese women since the policy’s inception in 1979. In the New York Times, OP-ED contributor Ma Jian details some of the horrific experiences Chinese women endure when authorities become aware of a second conception.

She describes the staggering amount of personal invasion local officials engage in to enforce the one-child policy. Family planning officers vigorously chart data regarding menstrual cycles and pelvic exams of every female of child bearing age within every village.

Many of these women are subjected to forced abortions and sterilizations if they are found within violation of the policy.

Probably one of the most egregious injustices of the policy is its disproportionate enforcement. The policy frequently targets poor citizens while bypassing wealthy individuals.

In fact, all violators can avoid the consequences of having a second child if they pay a fine that falls within the range of three times to 10 times the annual household income. It goes without saying that poor citizens, unable to pay the steep fine, either flee their home to avoid the authorities or become victims of forced abortions.

Many see the easing of the policy as a response to the looming demographic crisis that China now faces after 30 years of steadily implementing the one-child policy.  Some say the change is too little, too late.

Nicholas Eberstadt reports in the Wall Street Journal, that even with the policy change, the Chinese government only expects one million extra births per year, resulting in only a six percent increase in the fertility rate.

He also discusses the lasting effect the one-child policy will have long after its easing. For instance, individuals born under the previous policy will be entering the workforce in 2030 and deciding to get married in 2035.

Demographers predict that at the end of the decade there will be over 24 million men incapable of finding a woman to marry. One can expect this number to increase by 2035.

The inability for many to reproduce will leave China with an aging population that will increasingly reduce the number of individuals who are able to work as well as government resources. By 2050, over one quarter of the Chinese population will be over the age of 65.

– Zachary Lindberg

Sources: BBC, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker
Photo:  Dailystormers


One in three Senegalese girls are married before the age of 18, while the number worldwide nears 14 million. These girls are at a higher risk for abuse, health complications and dropping out of school. Tall as the Baobab Tree is being screened in villages in Senegal to promote dialogue and understanding between generations. This internationally acclaimed film is set in the Senegalese village Sinthiou Mbadane and follows two sisters who are the first from their family to attend school.

1. Respect for Elders vs. Dreams for the Future

In the film, the older sister, Coumba tries to save her younger sister, Debo, from being sold by their father into an arranged marriage. New and old worlds collide as the sisters struggle with whether respecting their elders has to mean betraying their own future. In countries like Senegal where education is becoming more accessible, it is important to engage in dialogues about the dangers associated with child marriage.

2. Dialogue can Positively Influence Attitude

The dialogues about child marriage have the potential to change the attitudes of village elders and leaders, who play an important role in determining the fate of children in the community. The film and the surrounding dialogues help girls in Senegal to realize that they are not alone in their struggle. The dialogues presented by the film are respectful towards girls and families, with the ultimate goal of bridging the generational misunderstanding.

“The main experience that this film focuses on is educating versus early marriage, which seems, in my experience, to be the single biggest challenge that this younger generation faces, coming from these traditionally conservative, rural villages,” said director Jeremy Teicher.

3. Grow Roots at Home to Strengthen Your Community

Because of poverty, a family may feel obligated to either send their children from a village to a large city to find work, or to marry off their daughters to older, wealthier men. With the help of Plan International (, children in Senegal have been able to stay in their home villages and either learn or work. The organization help set up training courses in needlework, hairdressing and metal work in villages to give children vocational opportunities. In this way, the children are able to grow up to be supporters and active community members in their villages.

Haley Sklut

Sources: The Guardian, Tall as the Baobab Tree, Voice of America
Photo: View of the Arts

Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital of Juba in December and has since spread throughout the country, not only displacing families, but separating them.

Save the Children fears that of the 121,000 people who have fled from their homes, countless children have been forced to fend for themselves in the surrounding swamp areas without access to shelter or clean water.

Over the course of three days in Juba alone, 60 children were reported as separated from their families. This is indicative of a larger problem, as the fighting is now concentrated in the northern part of the country, in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Malakal.

United Nations compounds and surrounding communities are providing refuge for some displaced families. However, due to the ongoing danger, access is limited where the fighting is at its worst, leaving the severity of the situation for South Sudanese children largely unknown.

United States missionaries in Malakal spent Christmas day protecting orphans from the conflict inside a U.N. peacekeeping base.

Forced from their home, the Campbells, a missionary family from Omaha, fled to their local base having pushed mattresses up against the inside of their doors and endured bullets through their windows.

Bradley Campbell, a former visual artist turned pastor, moved his family to South Sudan in 2012 as part of a Christian ministry based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Keeping Hope Alive.

Campbell recalls Christmas night spent trying to keep the orphans quiet inside the base, for fear the soldiers would find them.

400 U.S. government officials and private citizens have been evacuated since the conflict started, at least 60 more are awaiting evacuation, including the Campbells, although leaving may not be an option for the family.

The Campbells now count 10 Sudanese orphans as family members and fear what would happen to them if they are not considered U.S. citizens and granted the ability to leave.

Most of the orphans under Campbell’s care are ethnic Nuer, the tribe from which former vice president and current rebel leader Riek Macher hails.

The conflict arose when fighting broke out between those aligned with Macher and those with President Salva Kiir of the Dinka tribe. The president then accused Macher of starting a coup, after which an ethnic conflict erupted between the Nuer and the Dinka.

This recent violence in South Sudan is a continuation of Africa’s longest running civil war. Having gained independence just two years ago, South Sudan has endured decades of unrest, a total of two million lost lives as well as four million refugees.

An end to the current conflict does not seem eminent despite the insistence of East African mediators that the two sides must engage in peace talks.

Macher has requested the release of numerous imprisoned politicians before the talks can commence, a wish the government will not grant until the fighting has ceased.

– Zoë Dean

Sources: BBC, Save the Children, Washington Post
Photo: BBC