I’ve lived in Seoul for 11 years and have never met anyone who thought a North Korean attack was imminent, until I met Wooby Jason Strother / February 17, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Woo Seung-yep carries a camouflage backpack containing bottled water, canned food and a gas mask. He keeps it ready at all times—just in case war suddenly breaks out.
I’ve lived in Seoul for 11 years and have never met anyone who thought a North Korean attack was imminent, until I met Woo. He says with the way things are going, he wouldn’t be surprised if fighting starts this year.
Seoul is just 56km south of the demilitarised zone, the border between North and South Korea, and that puts it well within range of Pyongyang’s artillery, nuclear weapons included.
But when Kim Jong-un threatens to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” or otherwise annihilate what it calls the “puppet state” of the US imperialists, most South Koreans ignore it and get on with their lives. After decades of hostility most southerners see the North as a paper tiger.
Woo sees things differently. He is a safety consultant who goes on television to show viewers how they can pack bags like his own and he reckons his fellow countryman are in denial.
Which is understandable, because in Seoul, you never get the sense that you’re living on the frontline of the Third World War. People overseas are surprised to hear that there’s no panic in the streets and that supermarket shelves haven’t been emptied by frenzied stockpilers. It’s just bluster, we tell them… or perhaps this is just what we tell ourselves.