Last year South Korea’s capital, Seoul, chose a new mascot: “a winged lion-dog called Haechi, who is thought to be a guardian against disasters,” as Sukjong Hong wrote in “The Road to Freedom Village,” an anatomy of the country’s complex relationship with its northern border and the “Hermit Kingdom” on the other side, published in issue 8. On November 23, as if to account for the seeming failure of that talisman, South Korea’s tourism ministry unveiled mascots particular to the Demilitarized Zone: a family of marshmallow-tinted, Teletubby-inspired, butterfly-winged creatures named—seriously—Didi, Mimi, and Zizi (get it? D-M-Z!). The same day, North Korea bombed South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island.

Now, I'm not saying that Kim Jong Il and/or his ascendant son, Kim Jong Un, launched missiles at South Korean civilians as payback for foisting Didi, Mimi, and Zizi on the world. But, as Hong notes, the border region has, with the advent of DMZ tourism, changed from “an awkward spectacle of war-without-war into a professional, if still unnerving, enterprise, a scripted melodrama pitting national security against reunification.” Tour companies bill it as “the most fortified border on Earth that only Korea can offer.” On the day of the attack on Yeonpyeong Island, CNBC was debuting the Korea Tourism Organization’s “Visit Korea” advertising campaign. One suspects that, in the interim weeks, the Didi-Mimi-Zizi trio, meant to represent “a family from an alien planet making their visit to Earth to find its natural charms,” has experienced a marked devaluation of its brand. Then again, as of today the KTO’s website still reads: “These days the DMZ is a safe destination that we would thoroughly recommend to any traveler.”