Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Living in Korea 101: Getting Used To Constant Threats from NK

When I first heard the sirens during the annual civil defense drill in Seoul, it was scary. The only sirens I have ever heard were from World War II movies when planes were flying over a city and were about the bomb the place till kingdom come.

But in Seoul, wailing sirens are part of the civil defense drill when citizens are taught on what to do in case a real war in the Korean Peninsula actually breaks out. Again.

South Korea and North Korea are technically at war, but due to the Korean Armistice Agreement signed on July 27, 1953, hostilities between both sides have been halted. Well, peace and quiet are always temporary all these years. Why? Because every now and then, the northern neighbors would fire towards the south, just like what they did in 2010, when North Koreans shelled Yeongpyeong, an island north of Incheon. These provocations are usually carried out in order to get attention by whoever is watching.

And perhaps, the latest provocation that almost scared everyone was in the spring of 2012 when even foreign students were sent home overseas by their scared parents. My friend Jenny had to send home her daughter Sofi, who was taking a course for a semester at a university in Seoul, because she worried about the scenario.

But last week, tensions rose again when the North planted landmines along the border maiming a couple of soldiers who stepped on them, and the South started blasting propaganda over their loudspeakers trained northwards. I wondered whether other than propaganda, blasting Psy's Gangnam Style 24/7 would have done the job. Either the soldiers up north would end up horse-y dancing non-stop, or they'd get so sick of the song, they'd end up surrendering without any shots fired. 

And while everyone overseas overreacts after watching the exaggerated news on cable TV, all of us here Seoul continue living our lives, deaf and indifferent to whatever provocations our northern neighbors are up to every time. 

We're so used to these constant threats that our usually reaction is always "Here we go again!"

       (Life goes on: crowds lining up to enter a popular 
     bar in Itaewon last Friday night when tensions rose)


  1. I have to agree that sometimes, some media channels are trying to exaggerate the news :) But this is an eye opener for me.

    I clicked the photo and I assume this is a typical weeknight ni S.Korea. I recognise a familiar establishment Hollys Coffee, there are two branches in Ph. When I asked my Korean friend if Hollys Coffee is popular in S. Korea, she answered no... haha she mentioned something like Caffe Bene, the more popular and apparently, I discovered that it also landed in the Philippine market. I'm not sure if you have already prepared a post about the popular coffee shops in South Korea. I'm interested to know because I think it's another country that is popularising coffee shops :)

    1. The photo is actually a typical Friday/Saturday night in popular drinking areas in Seoul. It would be probably more crowded in Hongdae or Jongno.

      I haven't really posted a list of cafes in Seoul, but I think I probably will, aside from my Starbucks-devotee postings considering there are more cafes in the neighborhood compared to, say, three years ago.

  2. Nice post, I like your idea about the Gangnam style music, what a peaceful way to end a war, lol... It's nice to get a perspective of the lives of our kababayan their in Korea. 320 Steps | Rome

    1. Thanks. At least both sides have agreed to quiet down now; time for some kababayans to stop panicking. For now.