Life hasn’t changed much in South Korea in the past three years, despite North Korea’s threats of military action, says Edgewood High School graduate Nathan Wickstrom.
Wickstrom, in his last semester studying international commerce at Korea University in Seoul, said in an email interview, “The reaction here in South Korea Isn’t markedly different than it was in 2010. The bombing of Yeonpyeong Island was perhaps more severe, because it resulted in human casualties. So far, the current situation has just been bluster, tit for tat one-upmanship. Korean lives have continued as normal. Getting to work on time is the most pressing concern.”
He said most people in South Korea feel the current threats are just rhetoric. “Perhaps they have become immune from living with the threat for over 50 years, or just hope for the better, but South Koreans do no foresee North Korea attacking, as it would ultimately lead to the country’s downfall,” Wickstrom said.
He said the average South Korean is very aware of the details of the situation. “Perhaps a main difference is that the North Korea predicament is in South Korean news year-round, not just when the threat seems dire,” Wickstrom said.
The crisis escalated in the American mindset because the Western media only writes about border issues when the rhetoric increases, Wickstrom said.
“Western news agencies only post the latest information when the situation is at the worst, making war seem imminent when in fact it is not,” he said.
Wickstrom said he has not been to the demilitarized zone but lives about two hours away in Seoul. He said he took a bus ride to Paju, which is close to the North Korean border, and got a feel for the border situation.
“During the bus ride, I noticed that the river we were driving next to was fenced in the entire way, with patrol towers jutting out from It intermittently. In the mountains there were several observation towers, which were apparently made for tourists to look across the border,” he said.
“I felt sort of a thrill, but never felt threatened being so close to the border. The outlet malls, restaurants and art galleries in the area rather just formed a strange juxtaposition between the heavily guard border and the modern, commercialized state of South Korea.”