Poplar Trimming Incident Essay

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Not long after the trimming began, Lieutenant Pak Chul of the Korean People’s Army of North Korea, surrounded by ten other North Korean soldiers, approached the workmen and soldiers trimming the tree. “If you cut more branches,” Lieutenant Pak warned, “there will be a big problem” (qtd. in Oberdorfer and Carlin 148). Captain Arthur Bonifas, the American leading the trimming, ignored him, and the poplar trimming operation continued. Lieutenant Pak continued to threaten Captain Bonifas. “The branches that will be cut will be of no use, just as you will be after you die,” Lieutenant Pak told Captain Bonifas’ South Korean translator (qtd. in Oberdorfer and Carlin 149). Lieutenant Pak soon called in reinforcements, so that the North Koreans had about thirty men, easily outnumbering the South Koreans and Americans (Oberdorfer and Carlin …show more content…
In a personal message conveyed by an ambassador, Kim Il Sung called the poplar tree incident “regretful” and said that future incidents like it ought to be avoided (qtd. in Oberdorfer and Carlin 160). The U.S. and South Korea decided to accept the message, even though it did not apologize, on the grounds that a statement of regret was better than a reignited war (Lee 80). Kim also agreed to an American proposal to formally divide the JSA to prevent future clashes (French 189).
The poplar tree incident is, foremost, a lesson. The partition of the Korean peninsula into North and South has created endless division. The heir of division is anger and antipathy, which oftentimes boils into bloodshed, as witnessed in the events of August 18, 1976. Though the world avoided war in 1976, the persistent presence of the divide invites future incidents like that of the poplar tree, and thus invites war. Only in a world defined by peace and harmony can future incidents like the skirmish which nearly dragged the war into war be

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