Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dispatch from the ground: Calm on the border

More updates from the ground

Despite North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric, the mood here in my frontier town’s the same as ever. Everyone’s carrying on as if nothing’s happening. This probably so because nothing different is indeed happening out here. My students haven’t mentioned anything and the teachers have been silent as well. The students actually talked more about last summer’s typhoons then they’ve talked about North Korea. Perhaps they’re too worried about their studies or the latest smart phone app, but they’re the same as ever. Moreover, no one’s looting the grocery stores. We haven’t had any air raid drills here, either.

And while yes, I’m not worrying much about the North, I am concerned about the Kaesong complex being closed because it means Kim Jong-un went through on one of his threats. The complex had been running for years until now and now it’s shut down because the North wants its dose of attention. I’m no foreign policy expert, but cynicism and 1984 tells me that the North closed Kaesong because it means they could tell their own people that “the world made us do it” so they can play the victim. They’re doing it to build support among the people. Kaesong generates plenty of cash for the North, so stopping the cash flow means they can starve their people into getting angry with the rest of the world. The North Korean people are pawns in the never-ending game. Big Brother did the same thing in 1984 with the artificial shortages of goods. What’s more is that 53,000 North Koreans are now out of work for the time being because their leaders threw a tantrum. I should emphasize that while the Kaesong complex has been closed for days, nothing much has been happening. I find this interesting because of what Kaesong represents for the two countries and because now’s the first-ever time the complex has been closed. It was running during the Cheonan sinking, for example.

Does the Kaesong closing represent something more? Is it a sign of worse things to come? We’ll have to see. For now, I’ve been assured by the teachers here, “Don’t worry. No war.” I’ll take that and remember the British saying: Keep calm and carry on. The South Koreans have lived with the North for over 50 years and they’re in a much better position to comment than I am.

Relevant articles:

And some classic punk rock for your listening pleasure:

Vibrators - War Zone (V2, 1978)

Dead Kennedys - When Ya Get Drafted (Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, 1980)

Subhumans - Who's Gonna Fight In The 3rd World War (Demolition War EP, 1981)

We'll close with Black Sabbath's classic "War Pigs." Get it on 1970's Paranoid LP.

I also have another new post up for those who want less doom and gloom:

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