Tuckerton Minister Thinks South Koreans Not Too Worried About War

Jul 11, 2017
Reverend David Yun

The Rev. David Yun, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Tuckerton, thinks the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula may be overblown in the United States.

“My perspective is that there’s no big hoopla about it over there,” said Yun, who was born in South Korea 41 years ago and who maintains regular communication with relatives who remained behind after he and his immediate family moved to the U.S. when he was 10.

When North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last week, shock waves were felt throughout the corridors of power in Washington. The missile traveled less than 600 miles, landing off the Japanese coast. But it reached an altitude of 1,741 miles, meaning if it had followed a normal trajectory, it could have reached Alaska.

In response the U.S. Army conducted a joint exercise the next day with the South Korean military, launching its own missiles into South Korean territorial waters. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump seem to be playing a high stakes game of strategic poker.

If war were to break out, many people would be affected.

The Japanese would worry, considering North Korea apparently has plenty of medium range missiles and is suspected of hiding up to a dozen atomic bombs. Many experts don’t think the Kim regime yet has the capability of arming a missile with a nuclear weapon, but then again, they didn’t think North Korea had an ICBM, either.

American service members and their families are surely following the situation closely. After all, 28,500 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are stationed in South Korea. And if a shooting war were to develop – technically North Korea and the United Nations are still at war because although an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, a peace treaty was never inked – many thousands more would likely be deployed to the peninsula.

Nobody, though, would seem to be in as much danger as the people of South Korea, especially those living close to the 160-mile long, 2.5 miles wide Korean Demilitarized Zone that separates north from south. Seoul, South Korea’s capital and largest city, with a metropolitan area population of approximately 25 million people – about half of the country’s population – is only 35 miles from the DMZ. North Korea reportedly has thousands of long-range cannon and missiles aimed at Seoul, meaning if shots were fired in anger, civilian casualties would be severe.

So you’d think South Koreans would be worried sick about the newest developments on the peninsula. But Yun said, “There is much more media coverage (of the current tensions) over here than there.”

Yun’s take on the situation lines up well with some reports from South Korea that show that much of the country’s population is not on eggshells because of Kim’s latest provocations. Business Insider interviewed nine residents of Seoul for an article published on Monday, and most of the younger persons weren’t worried about war breaking out.

“Honestly, I don’t think war is going to happen, not at all,” said Hahm Sung-heul, a 31-year-old singer.

“I’m just focusing on making a living and getting by day by day, so I don’t really pay attention or care about the war,” said Choi Da-song, a 25-year-old tattoo artist. “I don’t watch the news because, if I do, I am going to worry about it.”

“I’m not worried about war because of all the other countries involved,” said Baek-So-yeon, 24, a student at Korea University.

Another media outlet, the daily news website Highsnobiety, interviewed seven “young South Korean Creatives” about the situation. Not one was overly concerned.

“I do not worry too much,” said Junyong Lim. “Korea is a divided country and there have been many such crises, but we have always resolved them… South Korea has always acted wisely and will do so again here.”

“Most foreign countries think South Korea is confronting a really dangerous situation,” said photographer Yang Jun Heyong. “But actually, we feel it’s not that serious. Most people live their lives as usual. Including me. It’s always been like this.”

But Business Insider did interview a few older South Koreans and they expressed more concern.

“Yes,” said Min Byung-ho, 76, “many Koreans are worried about war. A lot, actually. I think that the war will inevitably happen.”

Pastor Yun in Tuckerton said that older and younger South Koreans often disagree when talk turns to a divided Korea.

“There are pockets of people, mostly older people, who want reunification,” said the pastor, who added that many have land claims in the North.

But, he continued, it would be difficult, even if it could be done peaceably. The North and South are totally different, he explained, the former a communist country, the latter a capitalist haven – more capitalist, he said, than even the United States. Why would South Koreans want to absorb 15 million poor people?

“The reunification of Germany was much easier, because West Germany was more of a socialist country than South Korea,” said Yun.

Yun compared the situation on the Korean Peninsula now to Israel in 2011.

Israel was frequently featured in American news coverage that spring. On March 12 two Palestinian teens infiltrated a West Bank Jewish settlement and stabbed a father, mother and three children, ages 11, 3 and four-months, to death. On March 23 a suitcase that had been placed on a bus in Jerusalem blew up, killing one woman and inuring more than 50 other people. On April 7 an Israeli school bus was hit by an anti-tank missile, critically injuring a 16-year-old boy, who later died of his wounds.

So, it would have seemed that Israel was a dangerous place.

“When we went over there, nothing,” said Yun.

The biggest reason that Yun doesn’t see armed conflict breaking out in his native land is simple. The North and its leader Kim know that reviving the Korean War “would be suicide.”

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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