What’s Really Happening in South Korea despite North Korea’s Threat

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Last night, when my Mom and I talked on the phone, she was anxious, because of the news about North Korea’s threat to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against South Korea and the US.

 

Last night, when my Mom and I talked on the phone, she was anxious, because of the news about North Korea’s threat to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against South Korea and the US.

I told her that there’s nothing to worry about. Everything in SK is quite normal. Everybody is busy, as usual. The children go to school; parents go to work. People here don’t seem to give a damn about the threat. Even the government seems unfazed, though Seoul’s Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin stated that, if provoked, South Korea will retaliate.

Mom was trying to convince me to stay in the Philippines with my husband while threats of war are on the rise. I remember in 2010, Mom said the same thing to me when she learned from the news that North Korea bombed Yeongpyeong Island, taking the lives of two soldiers and two civilians. I can’t blame Mom if she panics. If there were a threat of war against my country, Filipinos would be alarmed. After the bombing of a popular shopping mall in Manila, Philippines several years ago, most Filipinos were afraid to go to the malls. Koreans, on the other hand, are unperturbed by possible attacks or bomb threats, especially those who live in the city.

A few days after North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, called for missiles to be put on standby, I was in Seoul doing some shopping with a Korean friend. Jamsil underground shopping center and Lotte Department Store were packed with busy shoppers, and it wasn’t even a weekend. It was a typical peaceful day in South Korea. I was sitting in front of a subway TV for a long time, finishing my coffee, but news about North Korea wasn’t flashed on the screen. At home, people watch news updates about North Korea’s warnings of nuclear war (My in-laws do every night when they come home from work.) and in the subway, some commuters watch the news in their tabs or smart phones, but after that, it’s as if they have just watched a Korean soap opera. None of it is real, and the war isn’t going to happen.

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Book shoppers flock Kyobo bookstore in Jamsil.

Rush hour traffic in Seoul

Rush hour traffic in Seoul

It's another ordinary day for these two boys coming home (or going to the hagwon) from school.

It’s another ordinary day for these two boys coming home (or going to the hagwon) from school.

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Bars and hoffs are open for business until dawn, and customers, unmindful of threats from the North, keep coming to have a good time.

Despite many threats being lashed out by the North every now and then, South Koreans remain calm. I don’t know how they do it, but perhaps it has something to do with being too preoccupied with their daily lives, with what is and not with what will be or may be. When I asked one of my Korean co-teachers what she thinks about the threats, she said, “We are used to it. (the threats)” Since Korea was divided into two territories, South Koreans have lived their lives under North Korea’s military intimidation. There has always been the possibility of war between the two countries, but majority of South Koreans take it for granted and choose to move on.



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