My take on the North Korea threat.

Since North Korea’s successful missile test on February 12, news of the threats from Kim Jong Un have been aired on a daily basis on the British news. So when I tell friends and family that I’m planning a return to Korea, immediately, concerns are raised, “You’re going back ? You must be mental! ”

Admittedly, while I was there, there were times that I’d wake up to BBC News reports that would worry me. The day of Kim Jong Il’s death for instance. Rather than the repeated threats of the last month, this report brought uncertainty more than anything else. What would his son do?  I was aware he’d been to university in Switzerland. Could this lead to the start of reunification? Or would Kim Jong Un want to make a statement and demonstrate his leadership qualities to the people of North Korea?

The area I lived in there were very few English speakers so I was eager to get to work to talk about the ramifications of the news. Only, it was just like any other day. Students were engrossed in the latest Angry Birds, my co-teachers were busy preparing for classes and everyone was eating noodles!

Four months later, North Korea tested a missile and again, everyone was in work, children were in school and unless I forced the conversation, no-one mentioned it. A complete contrast to the panic in the western media(The missile incidentally, failed and spiralled into the East China sea).

Bridge of No Return
The Bridge of No Return- The name originates from the claim that many war prisoners captured by the United States did not wish to return home. The prisoners were brought to the bridge and given the choice to remain in the country of their captivity or cross over to the other country. However, if they chose to cross the bridge, they would never be allowed to return.

In fact, the attitude is so relaxed that, despite the escalation in threats recently, you can still book a tour of the Demilitarized Zone (the border between North and South).

I brought the subject up with my adult class on a few occasions. They just seemed a bit numb to the threats from up north, explaining that they’d grew up with it their whole lives. This is echoed by anyone you speak to about it there and as an expat in Korea, you can fully understand that.

North/South Korea border
North/South divide between the Koreas. Taken from the North

You just don’t give North Korea a second thought unless its on the news and even then, it’s hard to picture that what you see on the news, is just 200 miles away. The only time you are made aware of the forces in the South is speaking to American soldiers in bars or when a Korean friend is called up for the compulsory two year’s military service.

So for now, I’m sticking by a motto that I lived by whenever the North popped up in the news. When the Koreans worry, I’ll worry.

Are you worried by North Korea? Any expats in Korea? What are your experiences in talking with people about the North? 

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