Korea at War
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On numerous occasions, when the South Korean government did something that North Korea did not like, such as conducting certain military drills, the North tried to intimidate the South with its military power. There was the threat that Seoul would be turned into a “sea of burning fire.” Rhetoric like this hardly affects most South Koreans today, as they have gotten so used to hearing these rants.
However, this news is usually broadcast on CNN and BBC, and for many foreigners living in Korea, Facebook messages and e-mails begin to pour in from family and friends around the world asking if we are okay. The outside world becomes paranoid. They are afraid of war breaking out in Korea. Some of my close foreign friends have been urged by their families to fly back home as soon as possible. But most of us living in Korea know the real situation and don’t get that fazed by this kind of news.
However, there were times that I was genuinely afraid of war breaking out. One incident happened on November 23, 2010. I could see worry on my Korean colleagues’ faces after the breaking news that gunfire had been exchanged on Yeonpyeong Island between North and South Korean soldiers. Another time in 2016 there was the controversy over the THAAD missile defense system being deployed in Seongju. Normally, complaints from neighboring countries on Korea’s military decisions never bothered me, but this time I heard news from American friends with connections to the military base in Yongsan that family members of military families were being sent back to America for safety, and only combatant soldiers would remain on the army base. My American friends were all making sure that they were registered on a safety list with their embassy, to guarantee that they would be evacuated in case of war. They were also asking us if we had signed up with our embassy as well. I don’t recall my country’s embassy (the Philippine embassy) having one of these safety/evacuation lists. Amidst all the paranoia spreading, I decided that if war ever broke out, I’d stay in Korea with my husband (who is Korean) and mother-in-law, and whatever happened, we’d go through it together. My husband was not the least bit alarmed, but I kept asking him questions like, “If ever something happened and we’re separated with no means of communication, where would we meet up?” We agreed on a designated spot, just in case, and that helped ease my nerves.
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