I didn’t want to write this, because I’m not qualified to write this. I am not an expert on North Korea, I am not Korean, and only speak Korean at an intermediate level, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
Life here has been proceeding as normal. Remember, I live in the Southwest corner of the Korean peninsula, so I’m about as far away from North Korea as you can get and still be on the mainland, but my friends in Seoul also seem unconcerned. This article written by a teacher in South Korea much like myself, sums up my feelings on the subject – the western (from what I’ve been seeing, mostly US) media feels the need to create panic. I think the last line of the article sums it up well.
Life has not changed in Korea over the past month and the North has not intensified their tone; the West simply started paying attention.
The first year that I was here, North Korea shelled 연평도 (Yeonpyeong-do), an island close to the border and according to some, in disputed waters. Before that in March 2010, they attacked and sunk a navy ship called the Cheonan. People in the states are worried about war breaking out again, but fail to remember that the two Koreas are at war, and have been since the 1950s. The Korean war never actually ended, and some South Koreans have never known a unifed Korea, or a Korea that is not at war with itself.
I am concerned about the coverage of Korea in the current media, but for different reasons than my friends and family in the states. They’re concerned about my safety – I’m concerned about the impact that the media will have on the current situation. Far from only reporting on current events, through sensationalist titles and sloppy reporting, the media has far more power to create events then we give it credit for. This past weekend we had our annual F*lbright conference on Jeju island. We talked about the current situation in South Korea, the tension in the population that though we have heard is mounting as reported by sources based in other countries, we do not feel, and about the US media’s role in creating this tension. This hysterical coverage, we agreed, could lead to one of two things – it could desensitize the American and Korean populations to the issues at hand, which are big issues in need of serious contemplation, or it could spiral in on itself, and make matters worse than they would have been.
I promise you, family and friends, I am being careful. I’m keeping an eye on the news (both western and local), and I’m not doing anything stupid. I do take your concerns seriously, as I did when I first moved here, because South Korea was and still is a country at war. However, I wouldn’t take everything that the western media says at face value, and I would ask that you understand the dangerous ground that the western media is currently treading by deliberately creating mass panic fueled by their sensationalist headlines.
Oh and PS, to all the people out there (hopefully none of my blog readers) who say that we should “just bomb the 38th parallel” – most of the 38th parallel is either the DMZ or South Korea, our allies. The border between North and South Korea does not run in a straight line across the peninsula. Please stop.