Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oh North Korea, you're still there?

I always pick the best time to be in Korea.

Work has been eating my brain lately which has kept me from posting things like Dildo Quest the sequel, which I’m sure you are all dying to read about. In the meantime; however, I thought I would take a moment to mention the fact that while I'm not in any great trouble at the moment, I'm certainly more troubled then usual by what North Korea has been up to.

I was sitting in the middle of observations yesterday when suddenly on my Twitter feed the announcement “North Korea has started shelling South Korea” rolled across my screen. This did very little for my concentration and did not ease my nerves in general. In fact, I wondered if I should start to kiss several parts of my anatomy goodbye.

What I do know is that I have 45 minutes. Daegu is exactly 45 minutes (as the nuclear missile flies) from Pyongyang. So I have 45 minutes to contemplate the end of my existence should it get more murky than it has already gotten. 45 minutes is a long time to think about something like that.

As the notice rolled across my screen I ran a quick news search, tried to find out what was going on, and put the Boy on trolling duty, searching through the Korean news services to find out what had happened. Basically, this is what happened:

South Korea has annually scheduled war games. NK knows (and has always known) about these military exercises.

The exercises were held in the Yellow Sea near Yeongpyeon Island.

The exercises included live fire.

Before they began, NK sent a warning to SK to cancel the exercises as NK saw these as an act of aggression. (As a note, NK ALWAYS sends a note to cancel these as they always see these drills as an act of aggression.)

SK has the drill anyway, firing live rounds.

An hour after the drill ended NK starts shooting artillery shells at Yeongpyeon Island. The island is mostly a fishing center, but like the five other islands in that region of the Yellow Sea it does have a military outpost.

SK responded in kind with shells to NK.

On the SK side two marines were killed; this was known immediately. Other causalities among the civilians were feared.

The president of SK, Lee Myung Baek, was evacuated to a bomb shelter and started having meetings.

Everyone in South Korea started holding their breath and waiting to see what would happen.

The night of, I tossed it off as the normal nonsense, but as the processing sank it I realized this was a bit heavier than the normal nonsense.

There are a lot of factors at play. The SK president is a bit of a blustery braggart, ala George W. Bush, and has done a great deal to isolate both the North and end most of the measures moving toward peace and unification. This has caused things to be really tense. Add to this sanctions and a heavy rainy season that has really hurt the North’s crop, and you have more tension.

On top of that, in NK you are looking at the succession of Kim Jong-Il’s third and youngest son. At 27 years old, Kim Jong Un is seen as the next in the line of Dear Leaders set to lead the North to glory. However, in the Korean culturally hierarchy, a 27-year-old untested general is not the best match for a leader.

And what happens when you need to demonstrate your skills as a North Korean leader? Shit gets blown up.

Jong-Il, when he was going to take over from his father, bolstered his credentials by blowing up a commercial airliner about to land in Seoul. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Air_Flight_858 Aside from that Jong-Il was also credited for an assassination attempt aimed at the South Korean president at the time that ended in the death of the wife.

Which brings us here to what is happening now.

At the moment this is mostly likely a planned demonstration using the convenient maritime drills as a good reason to justify shelling. This is planned by (or will be greatly attributed to) Kim Jong Un and will help set him up more strongly as the next Dear Leader, or whatever title he shall take.

On the ground, where I am, Korea is mostly taking it in stride. Politicians are political, but the people... well, life goes on. As it has over the last eight years, and last six various different SK/NK exchanges I have lived through here.

With one difference.

Normally no one even notices. But lately people are just a touch more jumpy. When aircraft fly over, people look up. There is a bit more talk about it in the office. The news has been talking about it non-stop, which is really different from other incidents, which were addressed for maybe a day. In general, we are all a little wired. I’m so wired that I am actually thinking about evacuation plans again, and how to get out, and get my friends out if things go really south.

In the meantime I keep thinking about my job, and the work I have to do, and the things that will be done, and well, how life will go on. Well that and checking the amount of water I have in my place, making sure I have two weeks of meds on hand, and some American currency in cash. Otherwise life goes on.

The following are some articles I have found the most fair and balanced about the situation.

About the event:

About the public response:

About Kim Jong-Un’s involvement

1 comment:

GeologyJoe said...

its nice to read about this situation from a local perspective. thx.