Koreans in Seoul casually going about their day despite the uncertainty surrounding their northern neighbors.
First, I just have to say when I saw that scene above today, it cracked me up. That little guy is just snoozing away, completely oblivious.
We took our delayed trip to Seoul today, and not surprisingly, nothing has changed — in fact, it’s as busy as ever. You won’t find Koreans in Seoul talking about evacuating or anything drastic like that, although for years the more progressive political parties (yes, there are more than two political parties in South Korea) have tried to move the capitol somewhere farther from the DMZ.
We only overheard one person talking about North Korea, an elderly woman (“ajuma”), but she was just commenting to her friends what times were like right after Kim Il-Sung died. It took about a year before Kim Jong-Il officially took over for his father, and the same will probably happen with his son, Kim Jong-Un. She said she thinks everything will go on being the same.
A Korean friend told me:
Oh I was just packing in my room til now after my classes and saw the news on the post while waiting shocking !
Hmm Well the news say that all citizens seem to be shocked and yeah military is on altert X(
Wow hmm but I don’t have a clue how this will effect our stituation.. some says war some says nothing will happen.. don’t know X(
This attitude of calm uncertainty is how most South Koreans are reacting, not panic like many Americans seem to be in their news comments and forum posts. Again, it’s not surprising because like I said in my last blog entry, South Koreans just don’t think about North Korea; if they thought about it all the time, they’d go mad because no one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, no one knows when North Korea will do something crazy next, no one knows if a peace treaty, reunification, or war is in their future.
What is surprising to me, however, is the lack of South Korean insight in the news. Every American news article I’ve read so far are from journalists in the U.S. or Japan; they’re not even in South Korea interviewing average citizens. Granted, they may not find many South Koreans willing to speak on the subject for fear of somehow provoking North Korea, but it’s their job to ask these questions.
I’ve only seen one South Korean interviewed on broadcast news, a professor from Yonsei University in Seoul who appeared on HLN and described Kim Jong-Il as “rational.” Fox News interviewed Donald Trump for some strange reason, as if he has any real insight or contribution to politics and economics. Laura Ling was interviewed on CNN because at least she’s had first-hand experience in North Korea, but she can’t tell people what South Koreans are thinking about all this.
That’s why I think it’s important for me to write about what things are like here in South Korea during this historic event.
A couple people have asked some good questions that I’d like to address here.
First, Kim Jong-Un is likely to succeed his father without a coup. During the two or so years Kim Jong-Il has been grooming his son to be his heir, he has killed or imprisoned any officials who have expressed dislike or doubt about his son. Fear is instilled in them, so we’ll see if Kim Jong-Un uses that to his advantage.
Second, South Korea will not break the cease fire; they will do anything to avoid war. They’ve even saved $1 trillion over the years just in case they have to reunify. South Koreans feel bad about what the North Koreans are going through, but many of them don’t want reunification because South Korea has finally become a major economic power in the world, and the cost of reunification would be astronomical. It’d be like East and West Germany all over again; it’ll take decades to recover. But they would still prefer this over war.
Third, if you want to know more about North and South Korea, here’s a short suggestions list. Click on them to learn more (images courtesy of linked websites):
I picked these two because they should still be in Netflix’s streaming library, so watch them after dinner tonight or something. Seoul Train is about people trying to help North Koreans escape into China and contains a lot of raw footage of the event as it happens. Kimjonilia breaks down the history of North Korea, and even has footage of the creepiest Communist T.V. shows you will ever see. The History Channel will also air some good material.
South Korean films:
A well-done, emotional, Saving Private Ryan style movie about two Korean brothers who end up on opposite sides of the Korean war.
An excellent modern-day film about the Joint Security Area and the lives of North and South Korean soldiers. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun gave this DVD to Kim Jong-Il during the Korean summit in October 2007. He probably didn’t watch it.
Chosun Ilbo – South Korean website where every article is written in Korean and English so people from all over the world can read it.
Photo © Christine Lines 2011
Blog post © Christine Lines 12.20.11