Sunday, April 14, 2013

Koreans Carrying on - and other Google Alerts

Although I'm no longer in Korea, much less Gangwondo, I have a Google alert set for Gangwon News (and also for my name.  Man, a whole of people with the same name die every year).  Most of the alerts are about soccer standings, others appear interesting to me but not enough to share.  I am not sure if these three articles are, in fact, interesting enough to write about but the first one I looked at filled me with cynical snark.

Indeed, I felt so bad about being so snarky, let me point out the positives in Strittmatter's opinion article in the Gazette.  Strittmatter is a new teacher and probably a fresh college grad who is in a tiny town near the DMZ.  I first planned to write about her naivete, but really, it is a tough time to be a newby in Korea and having military tanks frequently driving through town.  She does pass on the important message that most 'old Korea hands' share:
Although I awake daily to emails from uneasy family and friends, the South Koreans are unintimidated by the North Korean nuclear threats. Even in this small town, the residents carry on with their daily lives despite the escalation of threats from the North. Korean families have not stockpiled bottled water, rice, or kimchee (a Korean food staple often made by fermenting cabbage underground for several weeks). Farmers continue to tend their crops, shops stay open until dark, and children still practice taekwondo after school.
I guess I feel her naivete most shines through in the way she describes her Korean friends optimism for reunification.  This is a popular line, and relatively easy to explain in a second language, but the less palatable truth is that reunification, even peacefully arranged, will be hugely costly and few South Koreans are eager to consider it.
Now that I have just remarked on how most Koreans are unconcerned about North Korea's bluster, let me offer the contrast of  a Chosun Ilbo account on the lack of emergency shelters in Gangwondo.

South Korea started building evacuation shelters in 1975, but the project was virtually suspended in the late 1990s since rapid urbanization and industrialization meant many buildings had their own underground facilities. 
Instead, the government designated underground car parks, basements of apartment buildings and subway stations as evacuation points.
But critics say even purpose-built shelters cannot guarantee the people's safety since they cannot be perfectly sealed against chemical attacks and lack gas masks.
Indeed, CNN knows about the Parking Garage- Bomb Shelters.

Finally, my son loves the big cats, especially cheetahs.  This story doesn't feature cheetahs but it does feature leopards.  The Hankyoreh reports that there may still be some in Gangwon Province.  The evidence, as supplied by the article, seems pretty weak to me but I can still hope it is true.  To my Minjok Sagwan friends, be careful!