South Korea is a confusing place to live at the moment, as you can imagine. Unless you spend all of your time under a rock or stay away from all forms of media, there’s some tension over here. I’m torn between feeling stressed that we might blow up at any moment, and on the other hand, I want to wave it all off since North Korea has been spouting these same threats since the 1950’s.
I’ve lived here for over two years now, I’ve gone through a submarine bombing and the shell bombing of an island (both of which killed military personnel and civilians), and we still have not gone to war.
Why all the hype now? Both North and South Korea have new leaders, and we’re not exactly sure what they’re going to do. North Korean’s former ruler was Kim Jung-Il, but after his Death in 2011, his son, Kim Jung-Un took over. South Korea has recently elected a new president, Park Geun-Hye, this past February, and she says that she will not tolerate North Korea’s BS. Is Kim Jong-Un really dumb enough to nuke South Korea? It really wouldn’t benefit him because the blast radius of a nuclear bomb would destroy most of this country as well as a good chunk of North Korea. With not even China backing them when it comes to nuclear war, this would basically be the end of Kim Jong-Un’s reign. But, like I said, we’re just not sure how stupid he is…
I’ve gotten a lot of concerned messages over the past few weeks, especially now that the Western media has really gone crazy over this “recent new”, but let me tell you – if it wasn’t for everyone back home sending me messages or for the sudden burst of North Korea all over the news, I would have no idea that anything is going on. People are not freaking out or preparing for war, and no one I know in the foreign community has left because of these threats. What we have been doing is staying in touch with our embassies and asking what we should do in case of an emergency. I also get updates from the U.S. Embassy, and they just wrote a few days ago saying that there is no evidence of an actual attack, that there is no need to leave the country, and if anyone is planning on traveling here they do not need to change their agenda.
Thank you to everyone who has been concerned and contacted me recently, but trust that unless you hear that a bomb has gone off, or I tell you that the embassy has told me to leave, I will still be here teaching as usual. I had to have a conversation yesterday with a room full of twelve year olds who were all pretty sure that Seoul was going to be bombed and that they would all die in a war soon. Seriously?! I wasn’t exactly prepared for that conversation, but I did my best to assure them that all would probably be fine, and I explained some of the logistics to them. These are the concerns of twelve year olds over here at the moment – can you imagine? So yes, things are a bit tense, but not at all like how it’s being portrayed.
Besides some freaked out (and rightfully so) kids, things are continuing on as normal here, and I really hope that it stays that way. Sure, whenever I hear an airplane overhead (especially last year when I lived next to an airbase) I wonder if that one will be the one to drop a bomb, or if I hear fireworks unexpectedly my heart races until I find out that it’s not, in fact, North Korea peppering the area with gunfire. It sounds intense, but we’ve gotten used to it all here, and we can all laugh at our paranoia. I have no desire to be caught in a country that is going to war, but I also have no desire to leave everything behind just yet. There are a lot of things worth staying for until the end of next February, and I would really love this last year to be filled with great adventures and irreplaceable memories.
As my mom said when I asked her if she was freaked out about everything going on over here, “Of course I’m concerned, but I figure you can just as easily get hit by a bus anywhere in the world. I just say my prayers and trust that you’ll make good decisions.” So, everyone, say your prayers, send some goodness and love this way, and please please stop paying attention to all of the hyped up media.
There are a lot of scary images in the news of warheads, military running drills, and fighter jets; but I see none of this. These are my daily images of South Korea: