Tuesday, April 09, 2013

We're all fine...here...now...Thank you. How are you?

I'm increasing my usual blogging frequency of a post every...few months...because I felt the current circumstances warranted an update, now that North Korea's rhetoric and threats have turned to the foreigners in South Korea, a demographic that happens to include my family.

You see, my family has planned more of the usual tomorrow: I'm teaching a bunch of classes, Lucas is going to school where they're making ham sandwiches for "Cooking Day", and Carlos is working out after I get home.  We'll bake a chicken and some pita bread for dinner. We may even watch a movie in the evening! However, if you checked the CNN headlines today, you might be concerned that we may be choosing the wrong course of action...

Based on this  headline, we would be better off staying home, purchasing airline tickets and packing for a hasty departure. But this is not the plan. Why? Because we believe there are other perspectives to look at besides the US media, which, after all, is based an entire continent away. The story is a bit different when you instead turn to local Korean news sources in English. For example, the Korea Times, this country's oldest English-language news source looks like this right now:

In this report, North Korea's young, fresh dictator is viewed as a combative character straining to prevent an Arab Spring redux with his own long-oppressed subjects. The writer Kim Tae-gyu explains:

“With the North revamping unease everyday with warlike rhetoric, tensions are very high on the Korean Peninsula. But the consensus is that the primary target audience of the tough talks is North Koreans,” said a Seoul analyst who asked not to be named.

“Kim seemingly wants to maximize the sense of impending crisis through recent provocative activities. Having standoffs with outsiders is a good way to reduce internal conflict.”
In other words, Kim Jong-eun is doing this to keep his population united in the cause of standing strong against the US and South Korean forces and fortifying their nuclear arsenal rather than paying attention to their own poverty and hunger.

Meanwhile, the Korea JoongAng Daily is concerned primarily with the economic consequences of North Korea's decision to tentatively shut down operations at the joint Korean industrial complex just north of the border.

No talk of mass evacuations, no urging foreigners to swarm their embassies or find bomb shelters. Why the drastically different treatment of the current situation?

Maybe some of the answer comes from the perspective detailed by Andrei Lankov, one of the worlds leading scholars and experts on Korean relations. Rather than ratings-hungry media and US military experts, I appreciate hearing from someone who has studied the peninsula in detail for decades and has lived for a significant amount of time on each side of the border.

In an interview last week, Mr. Lankov felt that North Korea's current threats would be best ignored. He points out that when North Korea has warned of attack, they never actually have, and when they've actually attacked, it was with no warning at all. When asked why he thinks it sounds so serious this time, he says:
For many years, actually for decades, North Korea has played the same trick, which until recently has worked well. First, they manufacture a crisis. They behave pretty much like they're behaving now. They drive tensions high. And sooner or later, the international community and the major players begin to feel unwell and tense and insecure. At that point, North Koreans suggest to start negotiations, and they extract aid and other concessions in exchange for their willingness to return to the status quo...This approach, these tactics have worked perfectly well for many, many years, but recently it's losing its efficiency, because the outside world, above all the United States, have finally learned how it usually works with North Korea and they are not really rushing with money and concessions. And this is what North Korea wants above all: money and concessions from the outside world. So, obviously, it's quite possible that the North Korean decision makers decided to go really seriously loud this time.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Seoul is maintaining its security message from last week, explaining that they perceive no imminent threat to US citizens located in South Korea. Carlos and I are registered with our respective embassies and we're watching for any information that would indicate the need to take action, but for now, we're fine!

So there it is, folks. That's why our main concerns at the moment center on the return of the warm weather (please!) and what family-friendly movies are on TV tomorrow night.

*P.S. Bonus points if you can identify the source of the quote that makes up the title of this post. :)


Anonymous said...

Han Solo (Harrison ford) 1st star wars movie



Mom said...

Thanks Amy,
Star Wars--Han Solo

Emily Cruz said...

I'm glad you guys are okay :)

Lucky Larson's said...

I am moving to S. Korea in about a week..with my hubby and three kids--
Thank you so much for your blog. You have given me comfort and faith in our choice to move there.
We will be in Suncheon--
Our blog is

We will follow this blog and keep your family in our prayers!

Amy G said...

Thanks for visiting, LuckyLarsons, and I hope your trek to Suncheon will be a smooth one. I've been assembling some resources (http://carlosandamy.blogspot.kr/p/resources.html#korea) for life in Korea, especially for expat families, as I find that often there are resources out there for the young, single, English teacher crowd but not so much for those of us in a different stage of life. Check these out if you haven't already, especially the Facebook groups for families in Korea; I turn to them most of the time I feel lost. Sometimes I feel like we spent our first year here just flailing around and it wasn't until I was pregnant that I reached out and searched for other families. If you can, try to find some families in your area to connect to right away. It will make the transition so much easier! Best wishes to you and your family!

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for quite sometime. I come anxiously to see if you have a new entry! You're very informative!

Heather said...

Greeting Amy! My name is Heather and I was hoping you could answer my question about your blog! My email is Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com

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