Monday, April 01, 2013

How South Korea is dealing with North Korea's threats

South Korean high schoolers' response to North Korea declaring war on the country where we live:
Play an elaborate game of playground tag and help the foreign kid build a sand volcano. 04/31/2013
I'm hoping to squeeze this post in during March in an attempt to build some kind of blogging momentum, but then again we all know that working full-time while raising two kids in a foreign country can kind of present some obstacles to that goal. So today I am planning to talk about the everyday South Korean response to North Korea's increasingly threatening rhetoric this past week.

But let's start with some good news, shall we!?

Just a few weeks ago, the US Department of State very quietly slipped in a new amendment into one of the policy manuals used by immigration officers. It just came to our attention last weekend. Basically, it is providing an exception for the lifetime ban that currently has us exiled from the US, in cases where the intending immigrant was a minor at the time of the false claim incident. It lays out some conditions that must be met, so it's not an automatic cure, but this is quite possibly the miracle we've been praying for. Our lawyer has been on top of this, and is ready to submit our arguments for why the exception should apply to us. Now all that stands in the way is me collecting the evidence of hardship for the waiver packet and then we should be on our way. We won't start any celebrations until Carlos has a visa in hand, but for the first time in all these years, it feels like there could be a tangible, realistic process for us. It might take a very long time, but anything is an improvement on a lifetime of exile. It's exciting. And overwhelming!

Carolina is officially a legal resident of South Korea
In more day-to-day news, life is kind of settling into a routine now for our family. I enjoyed about 75 days of maternity leave under Korea's generous maternity leave policies, during which time we busied ourselves learning how to work a newborn into the family routine, and spent time going to the US Embassy and Korean immigration to make sure this child is properly documented. Now that I'm back at work, she and Daddy have worked out a smooth and peaceful daily schedule, and save for some harried days at the beginning where she refused to drink from a bottle, there have been very few complications. I feel like my current attempts to navigate work, family, immigration, and my own basic physical needs (like sleep) present a massive challenge but so far I'm doing OK. Having a husband to help out makes a huge difference!

So the main purpose of this post is to present our perspective on the escalating tensions with North Korea. Being that we live about 45-50 miles from the country that's threatening to point missiles at my home country and at the country where we currently live, there could be reason for concern. I'm going to try to explain why I don't think too much concern needs to be spent on us.

For one thing, the treatment in the Western media may just be quite a few notches more shrill than it is in Korean media. Even the most foreigner-ized media outlet in Korea has taken a more same-as-always approach to these developments. Today's headline is not actually about North Korea's threats, but rather the verbal sparring going on over the joint North Korean-South Korean industrial complex just north of the border. The fact is, South Korea has been getting threatened by North Korea for decades, and everyone's really used to it being lots of talk, very little action. The picture at the top of this post pretty much embodies the reaction here.

For another thing, it's the Spring. This is when the US and Korean military forces do their big public military exercises every year. We remember this from last year. More jets and helicopters fly overhead, cargo choppers ferry supplies between bases, and apparently this year the US felt the need to do a B-2 bomber rehearsal. But the point is, this stuff is done every year, and every year North Korea decries the display of strength being flaunted by these exercises. Last year, we didn't hear about it as much because Kim Jong-un was freshly installed and probably too green to start the kindling on an international incident. Now that he's gotten comfy in his new role, it's time to start up the warmongering lest his subjects doubt his sincerity.

Panic. Just pandemonium in South Korea on Sunday. Oh, wait...
This New York Times article gets into some of the other things that may be of greater concern coming out of North Korea right now. Ultimately, the ones I most feel concerned for are the members of the US and Korean military, the people who live on base, the ones most likely to actually be impacted by any military skirmishes that come out of this. Also, the residents of the lesser-known islands closest to the border, where some of North Korea's demonstrations have resulted in the loss of regular citizens' lives. Finally, the North Korean people who have lived for generations in extreme poverty and near-starvation, pitted against each other for survival and forced to participate in public demonstrations of support for their leader or face torture, food deprivation, or even death. Those are the people most in need of our prayers for peace right now.


mom said...

Thanks for this post Amy. It's always so good to see how things appear to you from that side of the story. And as usual we love to hear how everyone's doing.

Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving your comments! Feel free to agree, disagree, or provide your own perspective. However, personal attacks will not be tolerated and such comments will be deleted. Also, including the sources for any information you provide is highly encouraged! :)

Sorry, I had to turn on word verification, too much spam. :(