“If you build it, they will come” is an often-referenced phrase adapted from a line in the 1989 film “Field of Dreams.”
This idea appears to be true for the Korean War Memorial Garden, which Caroline Middle School students built in 2013 at Caroline High School in Milford. The site has attracted international attention over the years, and, on Tuesday, the schools hosted two visiting South Korean artists for a symbolic game of table tennis on the 38th parallel.
The line of latitude 38 degrees north of the Earth’s equator runs around the globe and through the front yard of Caroline High. On the other side of the world, along the same parallel, is the landmark dividing line between North and South Korea.
In 2013, students in Caroline Middle School’s history club made the 38th parallel discovery while studying the Korean War. The war started in 1950, after communist forces from North Korea invaded the South, crossing the 38th parallel.
About a month ago, the Korean Embassy in Washington contacted Caroline Middle School history teacher Sara Coan about having two Korean artists visit the memorial to play table tennis with members of the school’s history and Korean clubs.
The “38 Project”—the brainstorm of South Korean artists Oksang Lim, 69, and Jongku Kim, 57—is a series of table tennis matches on the 38th parallel in cities around the world.
In the United States, the pair has visited two 38th parallel latitude locations—one in Denver, Colo., and the other in Caroline. The duo uses pingpong to deliver a message of peace and harmony and a desire for unity among North and South Korea.
In his remarks, which included a brief history of his country, Kim, a sculptor, said the cheerful sound of pingpong symbolizes communication between opponents, and the net represents the border between the North and South.
Kim told students that the matches signify dialogues and big ideas being exchanged. The tone of the ball bouncing back and forth symbolizes the sound of communication necessary between opponents, he said.
On Tuesday, the artists gathered for the match at the Korean War Memorial Garden, with students and educators, including Korean club adviser Ruth Judd and history club adviser Coan, in attendance.
Coan was selected in 2018 as National Teacher of the Year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The contest recognizes one classroom elementary, middle and high school teacher for excellence in a curriculum focusing on citizenship education topics.
The project’s tour will end with a pingpong match at the Panmunjom, a historical place within the demilitarized zone where South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean President Kim Jong Un crossed borders.
When traveling outside of Koreas’ DMZ, the “38 Project” artists will encourage local participants to create a forum where the global communities can cheer and support the inter-Korean communication.