Expat Life: Keep Calm And Carry On: North Korea

Click here for background on this WWII-era  poster

Ordinarily, this is a light-hearted blog.  I've written a few times about some things that are personal and serious, but for the most part, my blog is a place for my irreverent and (often) obnoxious observations about my experiences as a middle-aged Western wife and mother trying (with questionable success) to adjust to life in an Asian megacity.  That's it.

For obvious reasons, then, I haven't mentioned the, shall we say, 'aggressive' rhetoric streaming out of North Korea lately.  Partly because it's no fun to dwell on the possibility of one's own impending doom, but really because - and I'm going to be brutally honest here - we're not really thinking about it.

I know, I know, it sounds like we're crazy, especially since -from what I can see - every major media franchise has been putting out some pretty alarmist copy lately.  But it's the truth.  I can honestly tell you the number of conversations I have had about North Korea in the last three weeks with other expats:  one, with a co-worker who mentioned it in passing as we were heading to a meeting.

We got an e-mail yesterday from Son#2's school assuring us that the administration had been in constant contact with the US and British embassies and that had been assured that there was "no cause for immediate concern" and that they were monitoring the situation closely.  I assume this is because some parents had expressed concern, although - as I said before, it hadn't come up in conversation with any of the parents I knew.

My South Korean friends? They don't mention it either.  In fact, it's just not a Thing.

No civil defense drills, no gas masks, no evacuations.  We're not glued to televisions, or streaming video on our laptops, or radio broadcasts.  We don't jump nervously every time we hear a loud noise.

We just kind of go on with life as normal.

Now, part of this probably has to do with an observation I made in previous blog post, which is, if you are unfortunate enough to live less than 100 kilometers away from an unstable rogue state with nuclear capability, it's pretty much a given that, should something go down, you will be right there in Ground Zero, poof, gone in a blink of an eye.  Given this reality, there's really no point whatsoever in worrying about the 'what ifs.'

I also made the observation that - as pessimistic as it sounded - I felt  instant annihilation was highly preferable to wandering through a post-apocalyptic nuclear landscape, where one would be obligated to fight other survivors for potable water and mangled cans of Spam.  In addition, having been raised by a Canadian mother, I can't see myself prevailing in a primal sort of situation that calls for the complete eradication of good manners.  I'd invariably let everyone get in front of me in the line for water and apologize for bumping into people in the frenzy to scavenge for the last of the Twinkies.

Now, I'm not in the US or Europe right now, so I have no idea what the media is saying about the situation, but I can only imagine.  And we have heard from more than one concerned friend or relative asking how we were doing, wondering what things must be like over here.

The truth?

We're just fine. Life here is totally normal. Yes, we all know that North Korea is there, rattling its sabers.  We know it's got weapons.  We know it's perpetrated aggressive acts before.  But after almost 2 years? We're used to it.  That's not to say that there's no threat.  I suppose we're just following the example of our South Korean hosts, who are taking things in stride.

We're keeping calm and carrying on.

For an excellent explanation of the situation for those of us living in South Korea, take a look at this clip by expat überbloggers Eatyourkimchi.  It does a great job of summing things up.


It's funny. I hadn't even thought about the North Korea situation in terms of you living in South Korea. It certainly is mentioned on the news here, but not all the time, and not in a panicked way at all, which is rather surprising really. It all seems a bit unreal, which I suppose it must do for you, too. I'm sure the best thing is not to think about it too much, and hope for the best.
Trish said…
I think I'd probably want to stick my fingers in my ears and sing la la la to try and wish away any threats.

I do love the idea that you would be polite in a crisis and continue to queue nicely. So civilised.
BavarianSojourn said…
I love your outlook, it's totally the way to be. The other day I read a quote from the Dalai Lama, which went along the lines of "to spend your time worrying about something that might not happen is a complete waste of your life, and your happiness"... Wise man that. Anyway, I reckon your neighbour's Kimchi is too hot and it's given him a belly ache... hopefully it will all blow over again soon enough. Hugs. Emma x
MsCaroline said…
NVG - one of our problems is that we have no idea how it's being portrayed to the rest of the world. I'm glad to hear it's not being blown out of proportion by the media. We had gotten enough worried e-mail and phone calls that we were starting to wonder.

Trish- Yes, that's pretty much what we do here. And yes, I am absolutely my mother's daughter, even in an apocalypse!

Emma- Actually, there are a series of hilarious memes of Kim Jong Un(who's quite portly) out there which all refer to him eating cake while everything goes to hell around him. Maybe it's just too much cake!
When I read the stories late last week about whats going on there I thought of you. The articles also said that SK generally ignores the bluster from the north (in the past) so it's interesting to read that attitude is sort of continuing.

You started this with 'its not going to be a light hearted post' or similar... and yet, you still managed to make me chuckle. Excellent writing!
MsCaroline said…
Michelle- I'm glad I gave you a laugh - exactly my intent! If we sat around and worried, we'd all probably go crazy. And honestly - it's just not on our minds much - until someone from the outside brings it up.

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