South Koreans outwardly calm
- Published: 10/04/2013 at 05:26 PM
- Online news:
Despite the increasing tensions on the peninsula, there are no signs of panic among the 10.5 million inhabitants of Seoul.
In the event of war, South Korea's capital would face a massive barrage from thousands of North Korean artillery pieces just across the border.
A feared run on banks or panic buying in the supermarkets have so far failed to materialize. Only here and there have there been isolated reports about hoarding in case of emergency.
Traffic in Seoul is as snarled as ever and children are going to school as usual. Each morning the newspapers appear with their reports about the latest stage of escalation in the growing conflict over North Korea's nuclear programme.
But South Koreans are not indifferent to the threats of war on a nearly daily basis from the North Korea. People are increasingly worried about some kind of military provocation by their communist neighbour.
In March, Pyongyang cancelled the Non-Aggression Treaty with South Korea and declared a "state of war." The two states, which share a 248-kilometre border, have been in a formal state of conflict since the Korean War of 1950-53.
Ever since, people have been living between fear and hope. The interest of young South Koreans in the issue of reunification is dwindling, according to officials at the Unification Ministry in Seoul.
Perhaps people have become somewhat dulled by all the threats, says Moon Young Jang, a woman living in Paju, a city of 360,000 people located near the border.
"For the past 60 years we have been used to threats from North Korea," she says. This time, the situation appears to be somewhat different, probably because someone new is in power in the North.
She said nobody she knows plans to leave Paju.
In Seoul, the political and economic centre of Asia's fourth-largest economy, people are reacting similarly.
"Among my acquaintances, nobody thinks that war is going to break out," says Kang Kyong A, a housewife and mother.
But people do feel that things are more serious this time, "also because South Korea is reacting more sharply and because the possibility of military altercations is greater than before."
Kang herself is not making any preparations for a worst-case scenario. But her children have already started to talk about the matter. "They're asking where the shelters are," she said.
A lot of discussion about the situation is also going on among foreigners in Seoul.
Diplomats at the German embassy say there have been some queries. But even after North Korea's advice to all the foreigners in South Korea to leave the country has not changed the situation for most foreigners, according to their initial assessments.
"I'm staying. Nothing is happening here," said Alfred Harth, an experimental musician who for years has been touring the Far East.
The German maintains a studio on the border with the North. As late as last weekend he organized a tour for a group of South Korean artists.
"During the ride along the demilitarized zone we saw a tank being transported - nothing unusual - and otherwise not a single soldier to be seen, either on manoeuvres or in position."
A new bunker has been prepared nearby to Harth's studio. In an emergency, he would flee there with his South Korean girlfriend.
"We don't want to abandon our family here in Korea," he said.
"The noose is getting tighter around those in power in the North, so naturally they are screaming and trying to fight back."
About the author
- Writer: dpa
Position: News agency