of Korea and the North

I know what Korea looks like when it’s scared.

People don’t go outside. At school even Sohee has a grim face. Parents look worried too, and gradually class size lessens until your 12 person class has 4 and you can’t play the dart board game quite as effectively. You get daily mass text messages from the Korean government telling you to stay inside and have x% chance of dying today. Eventually schools close all together and only the chain coffee shops are open. The others have 8 1/2×11 sheets of paper and something in black permanent marker  scribbled and taped to a closed door. You don’t know what it means but you can guess.

So you escape to Jeju Island and have a much-needed relaxing time on the beach!

It’s 4:16pm and Korea does not look like that. I’m sitting in a thriving coffee shop. There’s actually some kind of festival going on in my market with vegetables and homemade quilts and ddokboki.

There were an abnormal amount of children on bikes. I know this because I had to work this morning and I just about got run over approximately 145x.

More children arrived at Saturday class than last time, and were just as peppy. As I love.

I’ve received text messages all month from the government about the heat. We just smile and laugh because our hagwon would never let us take a break for a mere heat wave! And yet–I haven’t gotten any about the news today. Which is a little sad because I wanted to at least see how they would word it.

Almost every foreign person’s mom has contacted them in the past 24 hours and wondered about their safety. When my other foreign coteacher brought it up this afternoon during our lunch at a Chinese fusion restaurant, the Korean teachers were like, what? Oh that. Oh him. Oh the North (because North Korea is not a country–there’s Korea, and the North). Yeah that’s nothing to be worried about. Even if they had any weapons, they don’t have any money. Do you want to go to Seoul later?

I denied the Seoul invitation for my mother’s sanity and while it may be a little less hot than last week, sitting outside sweating under an umbrella didn’t sound that appealing.

I’m a journalism major. I took a class called “International News and its Effect on Society” where we literally studied news forms across the world. I did a project on how news is reported around the world. At the time, a giant blizzard had hit my home town–bringing down traffic lights and trees smashing houses and leaving people powerless for weeks. It was kind of a big deal. Yet at my college across the country–not a single person knew. What? There was a blizzard in New England? Oh that’s nice.

A similar thing happened with the MERS scare. I thought for sure my family was lying in bed worried for my health so I sent them a message reassuring them of my existence only for them to be like, what? There’s a disease in Korea?


Why the US is so interested in the North is a mystery to Koreans. Sure we have troops here, but I mean, it’s Kim Jong Un. Look at him.

evil incarnate

That doesn’t mean that bad people can’t come in the form of overweight asian Cabbage Patch dolls. But in a much larger sense.

Koreans aren’t afraid of him or the North. Should they be? You  have understand something. Korea and the North have been in a “State of War” since the armistice was signed in 1953, dividing the peninsula along the 38th parallel. Every Korean male has to serve 2 years or so in the Korean military between ages 20-30. It’s required by law and then they can return to their normal lives. So in any situation, the government has a standing army to call on upon, with all the skills necessary to go to physical war. They are quite proud of this army, and have faith in its strength.

It’s 4:52pm now. If Seoul is incinerated in the next 8 minutes I will bow my head and stand corrected. Well actually, I’m only 15 minutes south of Seoul so I probably will not be physically able to do this.

But do know this. I know what Korea looks like when it’s scared.

And they are definitely not scared.


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