Tuesday, November 23, 2010
North and South Korea: Should we be worried?
I've decided to post something on the recent artillery firings between the North and South. I've gotten a few concerned messages from friends and family. First of all, I am fine and nowhere near the conflict.
Here's a link to a BBC news article:
It gives more detail explaining the incident than I can really go into.
I tried to gage the seriousness of the situation from my co-teachers reaction. The language barrier makes it really difficult to say for sure, but my impression is that most Koreans are not worried. To give you an idea... Yesterday, I had my first open class with my 5th grade co-teacher. An open class is a class that is open for the public to watch (neighboring schools' teachers, principles, and parents all come to observe your class). We had been preparing for weeks; so with it finally finished we had a little celebration in the staff room. The head 6th grade teacher interrupted the party to tell us the shelling had just happened. All of the teachers jumped to their desks and onto their computers to check for news updates. The alarm lasted for 10 minutes and then, like nothing had happened, they were all back to sitting around, eating, and talking about the open class.
Later I pulled a few teachers aside (those that spoke better English) and asked them what they thought about it. A few were worried, but most for male relatives who are currently serving in the military. (All men have a two year obligatory service)
"Our country is divided" was one statement I heard unexpectedly. Many Koreans still view the situation between the North and South as one country divided and not of two waring countries. In fact, most South Koreans want to be reunited with the North one day. Much like what happened in Germany and Berlin, the Korean war split families into its northern and southern vectors. So what stops unification? A tyrannical dictator, for one. North and South Korea are like night and day. The South has prospered: their economy, infrastructure, and commerce has grown considerably in the last 20 years. A city here is like a city anywhere in the west. Meanwhile people in the North are very literally starving. I have friends who have visited the DMZ (It's a popular tourist destination.. though not one thats currently high on my list ) I've heard that you can clearly see a stark contrast between the North and South just by standing at the DMZ. There are trees on the southern side, while on the northern side there are patches of clear cutting, mines, and barbed wire fencing. Thats no place I want to go.
It's hard to say whether the problem will continue to escalate. Its forced me to think more seriously about "what if" scenarios, but I refuse to stoop to fear mongering. Yesterday, I registered with the American Embassy here in Korea (something I should have done when I first got here). I'm calm, but keeping a watchful eye. For now, all is fine and my bags remain unpacked.