by Sara Dorsey, Greenheart Travel Teach Abroad Specialist
Tensions and relations between North and South Korea remain extremely strained and tense at times and have been this way for a very long time. The history on the peninsula is very complicated and spans centuries. Of course we recognize that the current situation is very serious, and we are only trying to provide information based on our own past experiences and information coming directly from the embassy.
The message that we should be scared, to begin preparations for war, and to evacuate South Korea, however, is coming from the media and not the US embassy or South Korean government. It’s especially important to stay up to date with your Embassy in South Korea for the most current information regarding the situation. Threats are made against South Korea by the North very frequently and these recent threats are nothing new, especially to those who have lived in Korea their whole lives.
On April 4th, 2013 the US Embassy in Seoul released this statement regarding the rising tensions:
“The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in the Republic of Korea (ROK). The Embassy has not changed its security posture and we have not recommended that U.S. citizens who reside in, or plan to visit, the Republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time. The U.S. Embassy takes as its highest priority the welfare of American citizens in Korea. Should the security situation change, the Embassy will issue updated information.”
If the South Korean or US government thought for any reason it was dangerous to travel to or live in South Korea, they would immediately issue a travel warning (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html) and warn against travel to Korea. Until they do so, we stand behind their stance on the safety situation and do not believe there is any reason travelers should not visit or continue to live in South Korea.
When I was living in Seoul in 2010, North Korea sunk a South Korean naval ship called the Cheonan with a torpedo, killing 46 men, and threatened to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire.” My friends and family back home became very concerned about me living in Korea, especially so close to the border with North Korea. As an expat in Korea, you realize just how differently Koreans and Americans view the situation. South Koreans are used to the threats and fear mongering coming from North Korea, and don’t tend to take them very seriously. This is nothing new, and the media tends to gloss over the past tensions and identical situations from years past. This exact same rhetoric came out of North Korea in 2010, and even last year.
You should register with your embassy in South Korea if you plan to live there or visit:
- USA: http://seoul.usembassy.gov/
- South Africa: http://www.southafrica-embassy.or.kr/
- Canada: http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/korea-coree/index.aspx?view=d
- United Kingdom: http://ukinrok.fco.gov.uk/en/
- Australia: http://www.southkorea.embassy.gov.au/seol/home.html
- New Zealand: http://www.nzembassy.com/korea
Your embassy will keep you informed on any situations you need to be aware of. It’s also good to be registered with them just in case of an emergency.
Greenheart Travel’s number one priority is the safety and well-being of our participants abroad, and we will continue to keep updated and informed on the situation. If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to call or email us, or contact your Embassy in South Korea.