Why American Media Just Doesn’t Get South Korea

It’s not that South Koreans don’t care about it when North Korea rattles its saber, but the Western press doesn’t really do a good job of putting NK verbal belligerence into a historical context.  North and South Korea have been at war, technically, for over six decades (no official peace treaty was ever signed even when open hostilities ended in 1953).

South Koreans aren’t nationalistic and/or fatalistic drones about this stuff (there was genuine anger and grief when North Korea probably sank the Cheonan in 2010).  They really do care.  It’s just that you aren’t going to find them running off to stock up on bread and milk and toilet paper (of if you prefer, rice and kimchi and wet naps) and generally disrupting their work and social lives every time Kim Jong-un needs to prove he’s a tough guy.

So it’s nice that people back home are thinking about me but first, I’m in Daegu, which even during the Korean War (1950-1953) was pretty much spared any destruction due to the fact that it’s surrounded by mountains.  Second, the likelihood of a full-scale North Korean attack on South Korea is very low.  There is simply no way in hell the North Korean regime could survive a full counter-attack from US and South Korean armed forces.  Which isn’t to say there wouldn’t be significant civilian casualties and suffering, particularly in Seoul, but it would be the end of North Korea as a nation-state.  (And this is why China supports North Korea, grudgingly, not out of any warm fee-fees towards KJU.  They simply don’t want to share a border with South Korea and more importantly, US air and army bases.)

The people who are worried these days would be my adult conversation students with male adult-age children, because they’ll be called up for service if/when North Korea decides to torpedo another ship or shell a bunch of farmers and fishermen and their families for the hell of it.  These guys will be in the line of fire.

Interestingly, I occasionally ask my male college students what they think of all this.  (Many are in their mid-20’s and have completed their two years of mandatory service, meaning they’re now reservists).  Chalk it up to youth, but they really don’t seem to think in terms of how another North Korean provocation right now might bring them back to active service.  If I was in their position I’d do the same thing, honestly.  Call it “ignorance is bliss” or more practically, everybody has a life to live.

Anyhow, reading my hometown newspapers it’s clear that American media just can’t grok the emotional state between “complete pants-shitting terror” and “total stoic indifference.”   As mentioned, South Koreans are worried and don’t like this stuff.  Frankly, they’re kind of embarrassed by being “famous” every time NK has a tantrum.  And it certainly isn’t good for the nation’s economic health (markets don’t like unknowns).

But not every country has the luxury of having Canada, Mexico, and two oceans as neighbors.  If there’s anything “exceptional” about America it’s geography above all else.

This entry was posted in America, Korea, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why American Media Just Doesn’t Get South Korea

  1. badaidre says:

    Reblogged this on badaidre and commented:
    Why American Media Just Doesn’t GET any News about South Korea

  2. Aria says:

    Well said.

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