4.27.2010

How's the mood in South Korea at the moment?

I'm in America and I’ve read about the news of how North Korea is probably behind the attack on the navy ship. My question is, what's the mood like in Korea about all this? One can only get so much from news articles.

I feel hesitant to respond to this because I've had quite a busy weekend/week so far, and the only Koreans I've had time to properly socialize with have been fifteen year old boys. I do know that the ceremony honoring those who died will be held this Thursday, and the deaths have hit quite hard. It is definitely considered a tragedy.

As for the speculation about North Korea, it seems to me that a lot of the Koreans I know are having fairly tempered responses. The news hasn't been very clear, and no one's exactly sure what's going on. Which is a normal situation when anything happens involving North Korea, which South Koreans have a lot of experience with. So. My understanding of things (which is admittedly not the best informed at this moment or on this subject) is that everyone basically agrees that the situation is tragic, but the reactions to North Korean involvement vary pretty much from person to person, with the vast majority seeming to take a kind of wait-and-see approach on the whole thing, which is quite common in these situations, from what I've seen before.

You have to understand --- this shit has been going on forever. And Koreans aren't really into airing their dirty laundry amongst foreigners, either. Especially about this. Think about when there's turmoil within your family -- do you expect anyone outside of your family to fully understand the situation the way that you are experiencing it? North Korea, despite the trouble with the opposing regimes, is South Korea's family. And almost all of the Koreans I've spoken with on the subject view it as such. There's a long, long history there that outsiders can learn about, commiserate with, and begin to understand with a lot of time and effort, but it's not the same as being inside of that family. In a lot of cases, Koreans will assume that foreigners just won't understand if they talk about the situation with North Korea, and in a lot of cases (in my opinion), they are very, very right. So they mostly don't bring it up, out of the blue, to foreign acquaintances. Korean friends and close co-workers are something else entirely. As for that group, I can only speak for my circle. And in that circle, where North Korea is concerned, there is generally a lot of head shaking and furrowing brows -- much less so, anger. The situation is no different now. That those people died is a tragedy. Everyone agrees. But why they died, who's responsible, and what should be done about it.... I think Koreans generally have the wisdom (taught by their own history) to understand that these questions are hilariously succinct in relation to their answers.

So, to answer in short, the mood in Korea is exactly the same as always. No one is sounding the war drums and no one is freaking out. People are sad, people are worried. But it's the same sadness and worry that's been around for the last half-century.

4 comments:

John from Daejeon said...

Are you at all prepared for something disasterous happening? Any food or water stockpiles...just in case?

I'm no Picasso said...

Well, I was thinking about googling to try to find out where the nearest American embassy is, for like a second, earlier.... does that count?

John from Daejeon said...

After being here for four years, I now get the sense that things are even getting scary for the South Korean natives.

I remember my boss and apartment manager not even batting an eye when the North detonated its first nuclear weapon even as the air siren drills droned on, but now my apartment manager is bringing me bottled water and my boss is telling me it might be a good idea to stock up on provisions. Now, I'm wondering what the hell is actually going on behind the scenes. I know that the South doesn't want to rock the boat with the won gaining financial traction and the economy doing well, but the North might feel that this is the time to try and get some money out of their moneybags cousins in the South with their saber rattling. But when will they push the envelope too far and things start to spiral out of control?

I'm just really glad I'm not in Seoul right now.

Foreigner Joy said...

Listed as part of a post on my blog:
http://expatabundance.blogspot.com/