By Bumhyun Kim
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few weeks, you’ll know that the North Korean regime has been stepping up their usual threats. As usual, the Western media is indulging in its typical fear-mongering while the Koreans living right below the dictatorial insanity are shrugging their shoulders and going about their lives. I’m one of those Koreans.
Many of my foreign friends are apparently getting concerned emails and phone calls from family back home regarding the North Korea situation, and some of the foreign exchange students at my school have left the country (most of them are French, so what do you expect…that’s a joke). One of my American drinking buddies left this weekend as well. But for most of us, these threats are a repeat of the same old chest-beating we have become accustomed to. North Korea’s desperate attempts to get our attention are now a part of our daily lives. Most Koreans don’t care and I suspect many people abroad are getting sick of the attention-whoring as well.
I don’t claim to be a military expert, but having grown up with the constant threat of North Korea, having been here during the worst instances of provocation from the North, studying military history and our current political climate, and having served as a conscript, I assess that the possibility of war is very small. I think there is simply too much for Kim’s regime to lose, and the viability of a military victory by the North is a sliver. They might be crazy, but they’re not stupid. I don’t believe war is on the horizon and while history has shown us that the North is willing to conduct small-scale attacks, they aren’t going to press their luck and launch an attack big enough to cause large-scale damage and warrant retaliation of a similar scale on Pyongyang.
That being said, there is some concern in the back of my mind. I am not afraid of a war, but I am afraid of how the ROK military will react. It would really suck if things got escalated to the point where the Army would decide to mobilize its reserves. That’s what worries me as a former conscript. I was an active-duty corporal during the Yeonpyeong Island shellings and that attack resulted in us being locked down on base for a month. We had to be in constant combat readiness which meant we had to sleep and eat in our combat fatigues and combat gear. We took our rifles with us to eat and went to family visits with our helmets on. Off-base leave and weekend passes were all prohibited for a month. It was during this time that the threat of war really hit home. I didn’t think war would happen, but I still intensely wished that my assessment was true. Active-duty conscripts are probably the most worried people in this country right now. Soldiers wish for peace more than anyone.
As a reservist, I would probably be called up and sent home as soon as things quieted down. But the inconvenience of having to interrupt my exercise, work and schooling schedule is what bothers me. Simply put, I don’t want to don my combat uniform again and sit in the barracks. I already did that and I don’t care to re-experience military life anymore. Being away from my family and friends, and being stripped of my life without any sense of when I will be able to return isn’t something I’m eager to experience again. Some may see it as a necessity for our nation’s defense, but I am not one of those people. I am not a patriotic person. If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know I am not a fan of the ROK government and the military.
Don’t mistake me for a Korean leftist though. I am not a fan of the DPRK either. The leftist South Koreans who support the North boggle my mind. I am not one of those Koreans who view the North Koreans as my brethren. To me, they aren’t “my people” and we aren’t “one Korea.” They are the enemy, and they have attacked us on multiple occasions. This isn’t my military indoctrination talking. I felt this way long before I entered the Army and it has always confused me that there are South Koreans who support an oppressive dictatorship that seeks to destroy their current comfortable way of life. I will gladly shoot a North Korean soldier if I have to. It’s just that my hate for North Korea doesn’t precede my not wanting to die for the ROK. Which is why in the unlikely event there is a war, I’m going to be looking to get out when I can and hopefully I will end up in a country that is freer than both the ROK and the DPRK.
As far as other concerns go, there is also the possibility that the North will try to repeat what they did with Yeonpyeong Island, or even worse. For example, a terrorist attack in Seoul would ruin my day. People might die and things could get destroyed. I hope it doesn’t happen but if it does, I do hope that this time, the ROK will respond appropriately, and with sufficient force. There needs to be enough destruction on their end to let them know that such reckless behavior won’t go unpunished. I have been severely disappointed in the past by the Korean administration’s meek responses to being attacked. A small part of me wishes the North would do something similar to the Yeonpyeong naval engagements and that the South would give them a spanking.
In summary, my life goes on, and very little of my daily brain power is used to ponder the North Korean situation. There is, however, some concern in the back of mind and I do occasionally check my inbox for notices of reserve mobilization.