If you get CNN, the BBC, Fox News, heck even if you get facebook, you are probably aware that things here on the Korean peninsula are not exactly… friendly. Just so we are all aware, the relationship between the Koreas hasn’t been amicable for some time but right now tensions seem to be mounting.
I’m going to be frank with you. We learned the term “the CNN effect” when we first started looking for international jobs. Recruiters warn hopeful teaching candidates to be aware that news stories are often sensational and that life in a country often isn’t what you see on CNN. Teachers who have happily worked in places like Laos or Saudi Arabia corroborate their counsel declaring that they couldn’t have been happier living in these questionable countries. I’m going to tell you that I believe that there is a certain element of truth to this “CNN effect.” If all I knew about the U.S. came from the news, I would think that half the population was rioting for marriage equality while the other half was somehow involved in a mass shooting. Not exactly an inviting place to visit.
And so what does that mean for South Korea? Are we safe? Is CNN blowing Kim Jong-Un’s “bellicose rhetoric” out of proportion? I don’t know. I really have no idea how much of what we see on the news is sensational and how much I need to be worried about. Truthfully, it is a little nerve-wracking. My CNN app on my iPhone is constantly updating me with news about threats, missiles, and Guam while the U.S. embassy here seems cool, calm, and collected. Who do you trust? My brain says to trust the embassy and to look around at my students and notice that all of the ambassadors’ kids are still in my class taking notes and goofing off like any other day. But something in the back of my mind is constantly on edge. I don’t want to be the fool who ignored all the signs and ended up in a heap of trouble because no one told her to be more careful. On the other hand, I don’t want to be like the Y2K wackos who built bomb shelters and stocked them with water and canned goods for the supposed end of the world. So where is the happy medium?
A Security Message for U.S. Citizens
The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest that there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in the Republic of Korea (ROK). The Embassy has not changed its security posture and we have not recommended that U.S. citizens who reside in, or plan to visit, the Republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time. The U.S. Embassy takes as its highest priority the welfare of American citizens in Korea. Should the security situation change, the Embassy will issue updated information.
Convinced? Again, the majority of my mind trusts the Embassy and that it is in their best interest to act on the behalf of its dear citizens abiding abroad. But, there is that little bit of me that isn’t sold. And so I will go about my daily life. I will make dinner, teach class, enter grades. But, I am also going to have a “go bag” packed and ready should we have to skedaddle at a moment’s notice. Am I overreacting? Possibly. Do I care? Not a lot. Judge me if you dare. Judge me for not being careful enough; judge me for being too careful. I’m just doing the best with what I have, people.
I am hoping that one good thing will come from all of this publicity. Perhaps this will be the summer when no one asks us which Korea we live in. SOUTH Korea, people. SOUTH! They don’t like us much up North.