by Abbie Altena, Emerson Sarver and Abigail Gosselink
While Americans watch relations between North Korea and the U.S. dissolve into a dangerous chess match of strong words and stronger weapons, two of PC’s international students, senior Jooyong Park and sophomore Jason Kim, both from South Korea, are able to give a first-hand account of what dealing with North Korea involves.
North and South Korea’s history together has been a roller coaster of situations. When current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s father was close to death, he was friendly with South Korea. Park remembers when Kim Jong-un’s father was still in control.
“Before Kim Jong-un, we helped North Korea in a financial way,” Park explained. “But they didn’t use the money in a good way. They used it for nuclear weapons and to try to scare us with it.”
Though the Korean War ended in 1953, tensions are still high. South Korea has monthly practices for escaping and/or finding a safe place, in case of North Korean attacks. “We are still in war,” stated Park. “We just pause it for now. A few years ago they attacked one of our islands. We almost had a war at that time.”
According to Park, North Korea forces men to enter the army between the ages of 14 and 30; South Korean men must enter the army at the age of 22 and serve at least two years. The army is made up mostly of men, but women, like Park’s mother, may also volunteer.
“Most men don’t want to go into the army, but it is a duty, so we go,” stated Kim. “We are going in order to protect our country. When North Koreans are launching missiles, then our armies worry about war.”
Many people view North Korea as a ruthless country, and North Korea’s own citizens live in fear every day. They can be killed or imprisoned at any time and do not have any say in their lives. According to Park, the government leaders of North Korea are the ones who have all the control in this communist country.
“Normal citizens in North Korea are extremely poor,” said Park. “That’s not fair. (Government leaders) can control the people under them.”
South Koreans are split on their view of whether or not the U.S. is helping the situation with North Korea. Half believe what Trump is doing won’t help and want to stay unified, but the other half like how Trump is handling the situation and want to suppress North Korea.
“They are thinking Trump is doing a good job, because now America also responds aggressively. But they say they have to show North Korea actual power, not just talking or treaty,” said Park.
Many South Koreans think that the idea of war is Kim Jong-un’s way of keeping his power. “If he thinks he will lose power, he’ll make war,” said Park.
While the U.S. and other countries are doing their best to help South Korea, they cannot fix the problem completely due to distance and lack of manpower on the ground in North Korea.
“The U.S. and U.N. are our friends,” said Park. “They help us a lot, but they can’t do hard restrictions because China and Russia are behind North Korea.”
Neither Kim nor Park worried about their safety when they lived in South Korea, because they are so used to North Korean threats. Kim said that they hardly ever worry about war in South Korea. They feel safe and never feel the need to worry about their families back home.
In fact, even with the threat of North Korea right next to them, Park and Kim feel just as safe, if not safer, in South Korea. “Here (in the U.S.) everyone can have a gun. In Korea only army and police,” Park said