Given the current state of South Korean relations with their less-than-cozy neighbour to the North, I have been getting a lot of questions about how things are over here on the still-technically-at-war peninsula. The answer is somewhat complicated.
A very brief history lesson:
The Korean War technically didn’t end, there was simply an armistice signed in 1953 that declared that hostilities would be put on pause. Roughly 57 years later that same armistice is still in effect. No end of war declaration, just a pause.
With the sinking of a South Korean warship earlier in the year and the more recent shelling of a South Korean Island which killed four civillians, tensions have been at their highest along the Demilitarized Zone since the 1953 agreement. The North continues to provoke the South, and the South remains uncertain how to deal with their malnourished, bratty brother who keeps kicking her in the shins.
Each morning I wake. While the first thing on my mind is coffee, the second thing I check is the local news sites to see what has happened in the last day. It’s not fear that motivates this ritual, but curiosity. After all, an entire generation has grown up during this perpetual tension and they seem generally unworried about the current state of affairs. While it gets quite a lot of media attention each time the North threatens a nuclear strike or artillery barrage, for the most part the news is dominated by less dramatic stories.
My morning walk is almost always overshadowed by the syncopated chopping of US Chinook helicopters passing in a convoy overhead. Occasionally I pass a few Korean soldiers decked out in Camo with assault rifles over their backs. The spectre of war doesn’t loom over our heads, it is simply something we are reminded of of a daily basis. Life goes on as normal each day until something inevitably does happen whether it be war, the collapse of the North Korean government, or both. In the meantime we live as normal. And take comfort that there are a hell of a lot of bomb shelters nearby.