Getting accustomed to the brink of war
For Koreans in Halifax, the conflict between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un seems a world away.
It seems like it’s impossible lately to go a day without hearing about the rising tensions between North Korea and the United States. The two nations’ equally dramatic leaders, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, have turned the world’s attention toward their political game of who-will-strike-who with a ballistic missile first, and everyone is watching. Well, not everyone. South Koreans living in Halifax don’t seem to be too worried about the conflict.
“It does not affect me at all or make me wor- ry about my family or my country. I always treat these incidents [with North Korea] like routine events since it happens [all the] time,” says Won Shin, a South Korean student studying accounting at Dalhousie University. “My opinion is that there will be no war between North Korea, South Korea and the United States,” he says. “North Korea knows that they are going to lose and the dictator does not want to lose his country.”
South Koreans have been accustomed to the precariousness of North Korea and its lead- ers for the last 60 years, and so for them—and me—life continues as usual.
Since moving from Halifax to Seoul, South Korea—only 30 kilometers away from the border of North Korea—friends and family back home constantly ask me about “the situation” with North Korea, and scold me for choosing to live in a city so close to such an “unstable” and “dangerous” country.
I always get asked the same thing, time after time: “Aren’t you scared of North Korea?”
My answer is no, I’m not. I have no reason to be. I’ve come to realize South Koreans don’t seem too concerned—if at all—about North Korea, and so I shouldn’t be either.
Coverage of the conflict in South Korea isn’t as sensationalized as it is in the West, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve discussed North Korea with South Koreans.
At the moment, South Korea is more focused on the upcoming Olympic Games than on North Korea and its odd leader’s wild antics, because that’s just it—they’re antics. Kim Jong-un needs to appear unpredictable in the media in order to make other countries think twice about attacking North Korea. While the North Korean military is 1.2 million strong, its artillery is no match for more advanced countries like South Korea, let alone the United States.
Kim would unequivocally cause his own country’s demise if he declared war on South Korea, because of its alliance with the United States. However, with Donald Trump now in the mix, there’s certainly more cause for concern.
“Of course, this new conflict scares me, but not as much as you’d expect,” says Dalhousie mechanical engineering student John Jong Gwan Lee. “This provocation is pervasive in our society, [but] it does not impact” South Koreans.
Both Jong Gwan Lee and Won Shin say the threat of North Korea will have no impact on their decision to either stay in Canada or go back to South Korea after they graduate.
Shin, though, is hopeful someday there will be reunification without warfare.
“We as a country and global entity should find a peaceful way and better way to approach these problems,” he says. “My hope is that North Korea’s dictatorship ends and citizens in North Korea will finally have [human rights] and know more about the world.”
South Koreans in Halifax like Won Shin (right) and John Jong Gwan Lee (left) say they’re used to saber-rattling, but it’s a new experience for Sara Connors (centre).