Transitions commence new adventures. Make 'em last…
It was the news heard around the world – North Korean long-range artillery lobbed several dozen shells upon Yeonpyeong Island at 3pm yesterday afternoon killing two South Korean soldiers and two civilians, injuring over 17 people, and destroying a half-dozen homes. South Korea scrambled jet fighters and returned artillery fire within 10 minutes of the initial attack, but a ceasefire was quickly called by the South Korean president to prevent further escalation. The island, which sits roughly 75 kilometers from the South Korean Coast along the contested North-South maritime border in the yellow sea, is very close to the North Korean mainland and almost utterly defenseless. The 1600 island residents had been evacuated, but many have returned to help rebuild what was destroyed despite the danger that may still exist. This is another sad, chilling tale amid lasting tensions between North & South Korea that many hope will be resolved someday in the coming years; however, the future still appears blight.
North Korea violated the armistice agreement yet again after being set in place following the end of the Korean war which occurred from 1950-1953. How many times has this so-called armistice agreement been violated? It’s somewhere in the dozens, and so, what will happen now? No one, even perhaps North Korea, wants to go to “real” war, and so another diplomatic response is being pursued to attempt to halt these attacks. However, the word is that North Korea is infuriated about the recent sanctions that have been brought down upon them due to the discovery that they are attempting to build another nuclear facility. Therefore, North Korea again practiced its vocation of provocation and made loud noise yesterday. In addition, they will most likely use South Korea as a pawn in a political battle in order to lift sanctions in attempt to possibly allow the continuation of constructing this nuclear facility. Although, this is all heresay. So many people, diplomats, and news agencies are throwing conjectures all over the place in order to answer the question: why? No one seems to really know, but North Korea is pursuing something, some goal, or it may be in fact that it is completely delirious. Delirious? Well, it’s been noted in several South Korean articles that Kim Jung spent his time at a soy sauce factory during the entire altercation. In addition, while North Korea is spending the majority of their money on their military, the majority of the population suffers in poverty and hunger. From what I’ve heard, South Korea & China send trains full of food to feed these starving people, while the North Korean government allocates almost all their resources to the growth of their military.
These attacks and provocations have been going on for years, however, this recent attack combined with the Cheonan incident several months ago, have increased tensions to it’s highest level since the Korean War. Although, it does not appear to be so. After walking and talking with several of my Korean friends around town, it seems like nothing has happened. I ascertained that the majority of Koreans are really unphased by this unfortunate occurrence; it’s a normal state of affairs. With it being one day later, the conversations at local restaurants and bars are not revolving around this incidence at all, not at all. It was plastered all over the news yesterday afternoon, but it now seems almost completely forgotten. What makes this sadly interesting is that I’ve noticed that American news agencies have given jaded accounts of this occurrence stating things that aren’t necessarily so, such as the rising panic that is spreading throughout South Korea. I’m sorry, there is no panic, everything is calm.
To my surprise, many Koreans, as well as many of us foreign English teachers, took initial concern about the Korean economy when Korean stocks plummeted yesterday. One of the first things mentioned amid showing the attack on television was that the Finance Minister promulgated that the Korean Stock Market is strong and that no one should worry. It’s somewhat sad that this was one of the first things mentioned; however, in spite of this, the stock market did drop quite a bit and may continue to drop as it did after the Cheonan incident this last spring. The drop makes sense as less investors don’t want to run the apparent high risk of investing in a country that soon could be at war; only time will tell I suppose. Many of my fellow teachers are concerned, because this means that the currency will drop as well. Drop or no drop, conflict or no conflict, I’m not going anywhere. South Korea is my new home and will be for what I see, a fairly long time.
With the coming exchange of power in North Korea occurring perhaps within a few years, South Korea continues to desire that North Korea will halt its continual brutal vocation of provocation and pursue peace. History is in the making, lets hope peace is finally found.