In this post I will tell you my experience of how the South Koreans view North Korea.
“Stay far away from politics while you are there”, my grandmother said before I left for my exchange. “Say you are too busy with school if someone asks anything”, she continued. I understand where she is coming from but still as the political situation is on the news as much at it is, I believe this is an important part to discuss.
And after so many questions I received during my student exchange in Seoul regarding the situation with the North, how can I not bring it up in one blogpost. After this post I can go back to obeying my grandmothers wishes again, haha.
A bit before my flight to Seoul I read some news about North Korea and USA after which I sent a message to my friend questioning what I am really doing going there. Of course I had thought about it earlier but I think my university would not send me there if it was really bad. My friend then calmed me down saying that people live their lives there and that I should not be that concerned about the political situation as it is mostly words. She was right (at least so far).
Overall it was interesting to see people’s reactions when I told them where I was going on an exchange. Often they widened their eyes and said oh, wow. A lady I met the day before my flight was very surprised and said she had not heard of anyone going to “such an extreme place”. I just laughed it off and made a bad joke about that you should be there when it happens…
But now over to what I have learned during my almost four months in Seoul.
What South Koreans think about the North
The ones concerned
On the first day me and Noelle took the subway but got lost. A friendly lady came and helped us and take the right way. After speaking a while she looked concerned and asked “but do you think Korea is a safe place?” We all knew what she meant.
I told her my relatives had been concerned and then asked if she thought it was safe. She spoke of the Korean War and their different beliefs with North Korea, that millions died and that many families are still separated because of this. So some people are a bit scared of the situation with the nuclear weapons, yes.
Further, some might want Korea to be united again. For example when I went to the garden, it stated on the information sheet that they have a desire for North and South Korea to be united again.
So of course some people are concerned about the situation and there have been protests about the situation. But the overall opinion I have gotten is that the South Koreans are not that troubled about the political situation.
The ones who are not concerned
I have understood that the main opinion about what South Koreans think of North Korea is that they really do not care. A fellow Korean student have stated:
“honestly, nobody cares”.
And this is the answer I have gotten from more than one Korean student.
This said, the South Koreans do not spend their days worrying of the North and what might happen. To them North Korea has always been threatening, and sometimes also done attacks, but nothing that would start – or continue – a war.
The South Koreans I have talked to are aware that Kim Jong Un is “crazy”. One of my professors also described the North Korean leader as “the North Korean fat guy” on a multiple of occasions.
And a good thing to remember is that most of the people I have talked with have been students. To read Noelle’s, my fellow exchange students, post about the South Korean mindset about North Korea, click here.
At the Demilitarized Zone a US soldier talked about fake news and the power of media. A very interesting thing to talk about actually: What should we believe?
To sum this up, I am not saying this is the whole truth, but it is part of the truth. This is the truth I have learned. And honestly, walking in the streets of Seoul I even have felt more secure and safe than I have walking the streets back home.
What is your experience of how the South Koreans view North Korea? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!