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Many South Koreans seem blase about threats from North Korea

April 05, 2013|By Jung-yoon Choi
  • North Korean soldiers patrol along the bank of the Yalu River in the North Korean town of Sinuiju, across from the Chinese city of Dandong, on April 4, 2013.
North Korean soldiers patrol along the bank of the Yalu River in the North… (STR / AFP/Getty Images )

SEOUL-- Many South Koreans have maintained their general blasé attitude toward North Korea regardless of recent bombastic rhetoric from Pyongyang, in some cases treating it as a case of “the boy who cried wolf.”

The chance of a war with North Korea or a nuclear attack by the communist regime seems too farfetched to worry much, many South Koreas said this week. An entertainment cable channel offered humorous tips on what to do if a war breaks out that included the host enjoying a curry and rice MRE, the ready to eat meal used by the military.

At a bustling train station in Seoul, hundreds of travelers seemed not the least bit worried about North Korea or its leader, Kim Jong Un, as they went about their business.

Several well-dressed women, each of them wearing bright lipstick and clutching luxury bags, said threats from North Korea had not changed their travel plans, though they acknowledged mixed views on the possibility of war.

Kim Soon-ja, 61, said a war probably would not break out just because North Korea showed some type of aggression.

"The North Koreans are not living in this world by themselves,” she said. “A war won't erupt easily.”

Meanwhile,  64-year-old Song Nam-sook said that apparently there was no need to worry because of South Korea’s defense capabilities.

"I hear that if the South Korean military sees something fired from the North, then they would launch a missile right away to shoot the North Korean ones down,” she said. “So we don't have to worry about it.”

The Pentagon said  Wednesday that it was sending a mobile missile defense system to Guam as a “precautionary move.” North Korea poses a “real and clear danger” to the U.S. military base on the western Pacific island, as well as to allies and other U.S. territory, said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

North Korea has named Guam and Hawaii as potential targets in recent statements, which increased tension on the Korean peninsula. In a statement early Thursday, the North Korean military said it was ready to use “smaller, lighter and diversified” nuclear weapons to attack the U.S.

The developments have had some effect on some investors and members of the tour business,  experts said.

Local media reported that tourist agencies that specialize in trips to five islands in the region have seen many customers cancel or postpone plans.

Gareth Johnson, chief executive and founder of China-based Young Pioneer Tours, tweeted that the tension is taking a toll on business.

"We had an independent tour last Saturday, and saw one-third of the group drop out. Some of the tourists' families were getting worried," Johnson said. "But personally I don't think there will be any war. There hasn't been any travel warning, etc."

Heeyun, a 23-year-old history major student in Seoul, said he feels more angry then anxious about the North Korean regime.

 "The North know they don't have a chance of winning, but still they carry on with their provocations to heighten the diplomatic conflict to turn their internal conflicts to the outside," said Heeyun, who did not want his full name used. "Thus they are trying to strengthen the domestic unity, to continue on with their rule."

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