The BBC calls the Korean peninsula “one of the world’s geo-political hotspots,” a categorization made quite clear yesterday when North and South Korea exchanged fire on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. It’s often easy to forget the precariousness of the situation on my peninsula of residence – taking for granted that right across the border, which is not all that far away, resides one of the world’s most elusive and ominous regimes. But it becomes hard to ignore when it shows up in my inbox; the subject lines of emails from the BBC, New York Times, and US Embassy in Seoul blaring “Artillery Firing into Northwest Islands off the Coast,” “Border Clash Prompts South Korean Missile Warning,” and “South Korea Scrambles Jets.”
Is this the beginning of round two of the Korean War, or is it just more of North Korea’s posturing? It’s probably too soon to tell, but I hope for the latter. As the New York Times so kindly points out, “A face-off on the Korean Peninsula would require tens of thousands of troops, air power and the possibility of a resumption of the Korean War, a battle that American officials believe would not last long, but might end in the destruction of Seoul if the North unleashed artillery batteries near the border.” Slightly unsettling.
Of course, this is not the first time North Korea’s threats have been brought to my attention - I signed my contract not long after a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean navy ship, making “What about North Korea?” the first question everyone asked after I announced I was moving to Seoul. Nevertheless, it’s understandably disconcerting to have it pointed out on every media outlet that your place of residence, which happens to be the main target of a crazy military regime, could possibly be in imminent danger.
All that being said, there’s not much to do besides hope for the best, wait to see how things pan out, and take the necessary precautions (i.e. registering with the embassy, carrying a passport and cash, and having an exit strategy.)
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