Reactions to the Attack on Yeonpyeong

November 25, 2010

Yeonpyeong Island, shortly after the attack

As everyone in the world is no doubt aware by now, North Korea launched an attack on Yeonpyeong Island in South Korean territory, supposedly in response to military training exercises. The DPRK claims South Korean forces were firing towards, towards the border; the ROK maintains it was firing west. One marine and two civilians killed, property damage and ripples in the economy. The island has since been evacuated.

I’m not here to talk about that.

Why? Because I may be a blogger, but unless the events are staring me right in the face, I can’t tell you any more than a proper news organization. For your reference, however, I have been reading CNN, Huffington Post, and The Marmot’s Hole. I do have my opinions on the subject: thoughts on North Korea, how China and the US should respond, nuclear powers, etc. But as I can’t articulate them well enough, I’m leaving them silent for the moment.

Here’s what I can tell you, as an American living in South Korea far from the area affected:

The emails always come flooding in from friends and family, asking if I’m alright, how everything is. I know the intentions behind this are based on love and concern, but I can’t help but felt a little pity at those sending their thoughts my way. I’m on the east coast of South Korea, hundreds of kilometers away from this attack. Even if I were in Seoul, I doubt I would be seriously affected. I have to admit I feel the same urge to reach out to those I know in other countries when disaster strikes, but I think a better response than “are you ok???” would be “so, what have you heard that I haven’t?” I sympathize with the families of New Zealanders who lost members in the mining accident, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to email random people I know in Auckland and express my condolences. Being in the same country as a natural disaster or emergency situation really doesn’t mean that much… in most cases. You might as well be asking someone living in Texas if they survived the harsh Alaskan winter.

Life goes on. Yes, there are talks of escalation on both sides of the DMZ, but until full-fledged war breaks out, there will always be. Why? Because North Korea is run by a two-year-old who likes to lash out from time to time. Yes, we see you. Time to put your toys away. Little has been affected in South Korea other than in Yeonpyeong, of course. The mail is still being delivered. Buses are still running. Planes are flying out. Restaurants are serving food. The country is not holding its breath, waiting for the next missile to hit.

Along those lines, the reaction from some of my students really surprised me. They were joking about the attack. The lesson was based on the question “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?”. One of my blue class students replied “Yeonpyeong,” then giggled. I really didn’t see the humor, but didn’t feel it was my place to tell any South Korean, even a little girl, how they should feel about an “unprovoked” attack.

Am I worried? Not really. I flew in after North Korea torpedoed a South Korean fishing boat, an act which caused a greater loss of life than that we’ve seen on Yeonpyeong. But frankly, I feel the DPRK is much more likely to show open hostility towards the US than its neighbor to the south. So… I feel safer here than I do in the US, at least when it comes to North Korea. Not that either situation is a major concern to me personally. Sometimes foreigners just aren’t a part of these situations; yes, I’m aware shelling can kill Korean and waygook alike, but I can’t claim to have as much invested in life in Korea. I’m just living day-by-day, not really contributing to society.

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2 Responses to Reactions to the Attack on Yeonpyeong

  1. World Spinner on November 29, 2010 at 6:56 am

    Reactions to the Attack on Yeonpyeong | Once A Traveler…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  2. Kelsey on December 3, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Glad to hear your viewpoint on this. I used to live in a rural part of Korea, and I still keep up on the news.

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