What About North Korea?

For the third part of my ‘Is Korea Safe?’ series, I will to address the elephant in the room. ( Read Part I and Part II here).

If you have not been paying attention, there is an ongoing war between North and South Korea. It is easy to forget that the armistice that has existed since 1953 only stopped the two countries from being in an active war. It did not create peace. There is still a very tumultuous relationship between the two countries, with both ruling parties of South Korea wanting reunification and the ruling party of the North wanting the same. Still, neither wants the other government to be in charge. Although Public support for reunification is waning in South Korea, it does not seem that there will be permanent peace anytime soon.

As I write this, North Korea has launched the largest number of missiles in one month for a very long time. It has actively sent out aircrafts to the border of its airspace. They even are discussing resuming nuclear tests. This is worrisome for tourists and Koreans alike; however, this behavior is not out of the norm for North Korea.

During Covid, the North has been relatively quiet, which, even without Covid, happens from time to time; launching missiles and even nuclear tests are normal for the North. So normal, they are yearly occurrences. Whenever the US and South Korea do joint military drills or maneuvers, Kim Jong Un launches a display of force in response like his father before him. Unfortunately, those missile launches can cause the need to take cover for both Koreans and Japanese citizens, which is unnerving.

I’m not saying these actions are no cause for concern. Especially since the two countries whose North Korea has decent relations with Russia and China have either started a war recently (Russia and Ukraine) or have bolstered their military recently near areas of contested land (China to Taiwan). Although it is concerning, are Koreans all that worried? The answer is no, but they have lived with this ongoing war for generations. Many feel that North Korea’s displays of force are more like an annoying reminder that they are still at war. There is some comfort to take in the fact that Koreans are not concerned about an imminent war. Whether you are reading this article in 2023, just after I wrote it, or 5 years from now, what the people feel is something to consider.

If that does not ease your mind, the fact that all governments keep an eye on safety, political, and health conditions across the globe does. Most countries have developed a travel alert system to warn their citizens of developing situations worldwide. You should be able to sign up for these alerts on your local embassy website. It was about 6 months pre-Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when the US started changing its travel advisories to Ukraine and Russia from safe to cautious. In the final weeks before the attack, they put the toughest travel advisory on the two countries while advising any US citizens in the country to evacuate. Suppose your country thinks South Korea’s and North Korea’s relations are weak enough. In that case, they will update their safety guidelines.

I wish I could guarantee that war will never break out between the two countries, but I do not have that sort of power. Any persons you tells you you are safe from a war breaking out between North and South Korea is either nieve or looking at facts that say at this current moment in time the posibility of war is low. No matter how unlikey something is it can still happen. Should you be extreamly worried about war breaking out probably not however ultimately, it is up to you to make the best decision for your safety.

Whether you are traveling to South Korea or Spain, look at safety statistics and listen to people’s experiences, good and bad. Read on current government travel recommendations. Bad luck, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time can happen to anyone anywhere, which is why it is up to you to make the right decisions for your own safety.

Ultimately, my feelings and understanding of safety in Korea are based on personal experience, listening to Koreans, and public reports/news. There are probably many Koreans who would disagree with me. My perspective is from someone who has grown up with different cultural expectations and different government regulations as to safety (which is undeniably flawed but still has good points). It is not for me or anyone to decide for another person, nor is it our job to sway someone one way or another on what ‘safe’ means. We should all be open to differences of opinion and, most importantly, experiences. Understand that whether or not someplace is labeled ‘safe,’ there are many nuances and factors for each individual regarding safety.

(BTW let’s pray this ages well)

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