Ever since a truce was called putting the Korean War on pause, North Korea and the United States have been engaged in a war or words of propaganda. Recently, the situation has gotten drastically worse due to the development of nuclear weapons by the North and quarrels that ensued at the two nations’ summits. However, the war of words did not cease along the lines of the Korean Peninsula. It extended far into the territory of the United Nations Security Council, who is determined to regulate the exports and imports of North Korea when they imposed strict trade and economic sanctions this past September.
|▲ Anxiety of war is growing at Korean Peninsula as North Korea develops nuclear weapon and missiles (Picture from ABC News)|
With the end of the Cold War, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, people believed a new era of probable and long-lasting world peace was on the horizon. However, the prospective outbreak of war between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea, is continuously hampering that dream. Not a single day passes without seeing these two countries threatening each other with espionage tactics, diplomatic isolations, economic barriers and the worst of all, nuclear warfare. This war of words has overtaken every international news headline.
|▲ President Donald Trump is constantly showing his hostility from his recent remarks and tweets.|
The “Two Nations Issue”, which refers to the complicated relationship between North and South Korea has been ongoing since the end of the Korean War a few decades ago. However, this issue has seen drastic developments as a result of the continued escalation in tensions between the United States and North Korea. It is gaining more and more attention not only from experts and politicians, but also from ordinary people around the world. The break-out of a second war on the Korean peninsula solely depends on how these two nations act towards each other and South Korea seems to be continuously caught up in the crossfire. What it is adding to the predicament that South Korea currently faces is that 2 million foreigners also call this nation home. However, the worries weigh most, on the families of the foreigners currently residing in the South, when it comes to the “Two Nations Issue”.
As of 2015, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs recorded the foreign population at around 1.74 million, which is about 3% of the registered in South Korea and this number has already jumped to 2 million this year. The foreign population includes non-Koreans whose sojourn period is 90 days or more and those who have attained citizenship in South Korea.
|▲ Head of North Korea, Kim Jong-eun also is worsening the fear of war.|
After the recent provocations form North Korea, foreign residents, like their native counterparts, had several different reactions. Some people worried about the progress of North Korea’s weapons development, while other are concerned about Trump’s tough statements towards the North being responsible for the negative relationship between the two countries, and believe that his actions will detrimentally affect South Korea, a long-time ally of the US.
Most people are worried about the prospect of North Korea launching their weapons of mass destruction at South Korea. Moreover, due to the recent announcement by the Japanese and Russian governments, to evacuated their citizens from South Korea, global citizens became embroiled in a sincere concern about the prospects of a real war.
To learn more about the impression and feelings of foreigners who are either studying abroad or working in South Korea, the Dankook Herald (DKH) conducted interviews with Professor David Kelleher and Professor David Kalinowski, who are both currently teaching in the Department of International Business Administration at Dankook University. Both have resided in Korea for more than ten years. Based on their responses we can say that they generally feel that international media has in fact overstated the issue and the way that Koreans produce the news regarding the crisis in comparison to the way the international media reports are two distinctive approaches.
They stated that in South Korea, people are hardly being told that war is imminent, so as not to cause a social panic among its citizens. However, when they watch foreign news they are told the probability of war between the North and South, or even these days, a war between the United States and the North, is possible, even though that possibility is actually low. They base this opinion on previous experience, such as when the former leader of North Korea (Kim Jeong-il) passed away. Many people feared the break out of war at that time, but it turned out to be a peaceful transition.
The DKH asked them how other nationalities will be affected if a war broke out in South Korea. They both replied that nationality has nothing to do with anything, because if war is truly going to break out, especially if North Korea were to carry out an air-raid or launches a nuclear missile, no matter what country you are from, if you are unlucky, you will die, regardless of what your passport says.
Upon being asked about whether they have had friends or family who are concerned for their well-beings in Korea, most of them have indeed, from time to time, received calls or emails from relatives or friends asking about their situation, but they stated these inquiries could hardly be called worries.
The duty of protecting the citizens of each respective country in a foreign state lies on the embassy. Each country’s embassy has its own facilities and policies to protect its nationals, especially in times of emergency, though how they work might vary from one country to another depending on the diplomatic status of each country. As for the American embassy, the information of American citizens residing in Korea, like their address or contact number, is collected and from time to time any security updated are provided. For example, in the case of emergency evacuations, procedures on how to return to your country of origin are provided.
There are many countries that have various policies to protect their own nationals in relatively common circumstances such as theft or sexual assault, but most nations’ guidelines for large scale terror or catastrophe are not as detailed. Citizens from countries such as the US, United Kingdoms, and Canada, to name a few, are offered new updates through registered email addresses and are told to register with their local embassy when travelling abroad. However, rescue procedures, such as ones required in case of a large-scale emergency, cannot be found in the pages of most foreign embassy websites. Since the international situation has always proved to be challenging, some aspects of the consular support need to be made clear like directives of what to do and how to act in response to a sudden emergency, for both the embassy and foreigners themselves. Prevention is always better than the cure.
Although world peace seems to be more or less prevalent these days, we will always be bombarded by news of regional armed conflicts and the reign of terror from a looming war is far from over. Vicious battles are still being fought around the world. There are those in fought in the name of national interests, and those meant to overthrow a tyrannous dictatorship. There is also the ongoing war against terrorism and there are even wars which are just about to be fought. Throughout all of these manmade disasters, there are always innocent victims stuck in the middle of the fight. Who should be there for them? Who could be there to protect them, from a war which is not even theirs to begin with?
International news seems to be growing anxious with the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula between North Korean and the US. Disappointingly, unlike the international society’s anxiety and high interest, several governments lack a real plan for the practical protection of its citizens. Most governments, even the South Korea one, advise their nationals to try solve any given emergency situation by asking for help from acquaintances first. Thus, the ministry in charge would only provide aid in limited circumstances and the citizens living abroad have to fulfill several conditions to get consular help. Handling a potentially large scale disaster like war via a private connection is almost impossible and by the time one asks for help, he or she might be exposed to unrecoverable vulnerability. Each country needs to first devise practical and detailed manuals for cases of warfare and similar disasters. If they have already, they should inform the general public of them, so that they too can know what they should do.
Edward Ng, 윤진현, 이재윤 firstname.lastname@example.org