Tuesday, March 03, 2009


North Korean Relations: From Panic to ... Less Panic

August 1994

Tonight on ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings I saw a segment on the troubles between North and South Korea. Supposedly the communist North is working to acquire nuclear weapons and they have a much bigger military than the South. Recently, they threatened to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire.”

I’m sure glad I don’t live anywhere near there. I wouldn’t want to be there should the situation change for the worse.

July 2002

At the university radio station where I work part-time I heard about the protest against American troops in South Korea. Apparently two young girls were struck and killed by a military vehicle, and they interviewed a Korean woman who said, “Yankee go home!”

It certainly is a tragedy, but can’t they see they need us there to face the North Korean threat?

May 2005

Well, it’s official: I’ve been hired as a teacher by the Samyook Language School in South Korea. I dropped by my friend’s office to tell him the news and one of his redneck coworkers said to me, “Ain’t they go nucular weapons over there? They drop a bomb on you, don’t say we din’t warn ya.”

I can’t wait to get out of here. It seems like attitudes around here never change.

September 2005

Today was the 15th, and it was my first time hearing the warning sirens that the South Koreans test on this day every month to ensure that they’re prepared for a North Korean invasion. I didn’t know it was just a test when I heard it start blaring, but no worries; I expect my resting heart rate to return to normal no later than the 21st.

My first clue that it wasn’t an emergency was all the people walking outside just like normal. People here seem far less likely to believe an attack from North Korea is pending than your average Peter Jennings-watching American. I suppose that it’s because they’ve been living with it for more than 50 years now, and it must seem to them that nothing ever changes.

It still makes me nervous at times, but at least I’m teaching at Samyook’s Suncheon institute, almost as far from the Northern border as I can get. Besides, if relations deteriorated around here I could just leave. It’s not like I’m married to anyone around here or anything.

October 2006

I took a nap in between the classes I teach at Samyook’s Chuncheon institute, and when I woke up I found out that North Korea had indeed tested a nuclear device like the threatened to. Even my students betray some concern over the situation during conversation practice … but then they returned to talking about how hard their university courses are and how their searches for jobs are going.

I’m in awe of how calm they can be, and I wish I could feel the same. Ever since Catherine and I started dating a couple of months ago I honestly haven’t known what I’d do if we were in danger. My mom sent me an email the other day recommending that I put Catherine in a suitcase and come home if I need to.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

June 2007

The North and South Korean heads of state are planning a summit meeting this year. Trains are set to travel the Seoul-Pyongyang railway again. Meanwhile, North Korea supposedly has missiles that can reach the United States.

I’m reminded of my friend’s redneck coworker a couple of years ago; the one who felt I should be afraid of the North’s “nucular” capacity. Seems to me that I’m safer here than he is there!

July 2008

A South Korean tourist was shot and killed while visiting the Mt. Geumgang resort, one of the only places in the North where Southerners are allowed to visit. The North refuses to apologize even though one of its soldiers did the shooting. It boggles the mind, but they seem to be saying the South owes them an apology over the incident.

Actually, tensions have been pretty high here ever since the South elected a new right-leaning president in the spring. He’s withholding aid to the North until they denuclearize, and for that the North has cut off dialogue and labeled him a “traitor.”

Catherine and I are getting married Aug. 31, and all I can think about is, “I hope the North doesn’t invade on Aug. 30.”

February 2009

The North is said to be planning to test-fire a missile, though they claim it’s a satellite. They’ve renounced prior treaties with the South and threatened to turn Seoul into “debris.” Now, a story in The Korea Herald today says they’re expanding their Special Forces division which would be used the infiltrate and inflict damage on the South.

(Yawn) Doesn’t anything ever change around here?

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