Remilitarized zone

My dad sent me an email the other day saying he was “becoming increasingly concerned” about the changing rhetoric between North and South Korea. The north and south have been yelling at each other a lot in the two years that I’ve been here. From what I gather, it’s because of the new, tougher policies of the ROK government. The DPRK saying that they’re going to turn the south into a sea of ashes makes the newspapers, but it isn’t really news; it’s a regular occurrence.

I don’t pretend to know much about the relationship between the two. But I kind of see the whole of Korea as one dysfuctional family. Culturally, the two together are a single entity. The border is not a division between nations; it’s a division in ideology, largely formed by powers outside of Korea itself. At the risk of sounding insensitive it’s a little like two brothers who have grown apart through the meddling of their parents (who, in this metaphor, are those powers who drove them apart). There’s a lot of jealousy and anger between the two. So there’s a lot of yelling and posturing and the parents kind of watch over them getting ready to separate them if it comes to blows. (In truth, this is a pretty lame metaphor because in reality the two brothers would like to divorce their parents and then fuse into a single human being. The fight is over what kind of person that would be. But weak as it is, it still helps me to conceptualize things a little.)

No one here seems to worry about it, at least publicly. They certainly don’t talk about it, Koreans and foreigners alike. People here are more concerned about the dire economic situation (again, foreigners and Koreans alike). But lately things have changed, at least a little. It’s been a slow build. And the fact that my father is sending me emails means the U.S. news media is beginning to talk about it more. If its in the news in the States it means the U.S. government is paying more attention. The reason is the impending satellite missile launch. If the DPRK can fire something into Japanese airspace, or hit Guam, or hit Alaska, the U.S. is going to get involved more strongly.

The United States government — the new Obama administration — has a decision to make. They can let it happen, condemn it, and then otherwise ignore it while moving ahead diplomatically. Or they can shoot it down, something the Washington Post recently advocated. One thing is for sure. If they shoot it down, the north will definitely not ignore that. They’ve ruffled their feathers so much that there’s not much more to yell. Things could get really nasty, not in words this time, but in action. We’ll have to see what happens.

I was talking to a Korean friend the other day. Again, Koreans don’t seem to like talking about their insane nothern brother and I rarely ask people about it. But this time I did. Her initial response was common: a laugh, followed by a comment about how crazy they are. But she then said that in her opinion this situation might be more than words. Her concern isn’t so much the missile test, but a dispute along the maritime border. This area has flared up a couple of times before. But she said that the newest development is that Chinese ships have left the area, an indication that they’re worried about some kind of significant outbreak. If there’s an actual sea battle, that’s, well, that’s not good either.

I don’t believe that troops from the north are suddenly going to flood across the DMZ and invade Seoul. I just don’t see that happening. It’s far more likely that all sides will step up the dialogue, reach some tepid agreements, and maybe the ROK will soften their stance and offer a little more aid to the north.

But all this does make me think about contingency plans. I’ve only had one discussion about this with my foreigner friends, around the time the Kim Jong Il death rumors started. Apparently, if the shit hits the fan, we’re supposed to go to the nearest U.S. military base, where we’ll be protected and sent back to the United States. I don’t even know where the nearest military base is or how I would get there. Is there even a base still in Busan?

I guess I should find out more about this stuff.

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4 Responses to “Remilitarized zone”

  1. bluntandwise Says:

    Yes, you are exacty right! No one likes to discuss the inevitable here and shame on us for being so silent.

    You can go toward the Busan Consulates office or head straight to Daegu. In Daegu, you will find three bases and all of which are flooded by our military troops. Past Daegu you also have another base in W (look hard) going toward Seoul.

    Now, here’s the thing…you are going to have to make sure that you are partially packed-up over the next few weeks. The last thing you want to do is have all of your belongings spread across the apartment while trying to run. Not a good thought or plan, I must say. From a few inside sources, you need to be prepared right now because our troops are standing guard and ready to go at a moments notice. Many of which, are suprised we are all still here throughout this crisis.

    I feel like this, its great to have our troops here around us, but most of our safety is in our own hands. We only have a reported 28-30K troops here, which is not nearly enough to bring the pain the way the US is known to do. All in all, be responsible with your life and don’t live in a cacoon…YOUR FATHER IS RIGHT!

    Express caution as soon as possible and note that your family comes first…not teaching and not money!

    Warmest regards,
    Bluntandwise

  2. Yeah… I’ve been reading a lot about North-South relations and history over the last few years, and I seriously doubt that the North will ever attack again. They’re so destitute these days that I don’t even think they have the capablility to maintain a prolonged war – though their military is still quite formidable. The only real danger is that their could be a stupid escalation of one incident that gets out of hand.

  3. Thanks for the info bluntandwise… It’s probably a good idea to develop some kind of plan just in case. I don’t think I’m quite as alarmed as you are though to the danger. I’m with Tharp, I seriously doubt that full-on war will occur and that the biggest concern is stupidity (on either side, but primarily the North because they’re the desperate party). A breakdown in the power structure there is also something to worry about. Desperation is strong fuel for stupidity.

  4. bluntandwise Says:

    I definitely see your points. I can only give you the details that came directly from some experienced military folks, living this crap right now. You can never be to sure about anything these days and like I was told, take everything you read to heart and think. People are hard to gauge, much less a country…do we really know anyone’s allies? I highly doubt it! Money…greed…jealousy (all of which fuel disasters).

    I’m with the two of you, believe me. But there’s apart of me that’s sensible as well (my head isn’t in the clouds, nor do I think we are untouchable). Heck, its only 6.5 hours from one end of ROK to the other. I drove it…kinda like a shopping trip from VA to NY, done on the weekends. We’re not living in a place that’s huge my friends. Something would be felt no matter where we are…LOL^^ You must live in Jeju Island?

    Either way, the only reason why I’m still here is not because I believe they won’t do anything, it’s because I believe in our AMERICAN TROOPS!

    I’ve been there and done that so, I know how strong and how prepared we are…the world is in an uproar and even though there are many places including the ultra-confused ROK society, they still need us!

    I suppose, planning is the key to everything when living as an expat (unless, someone is residing here as a permanent resident at this point)…that’s another story.

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