Posts Tagged ‘Land of Morning Calm’

An old nickname for Korea is “Land of Morning Calm”, a moniker hot-blooded Koreans don’t always live up to. In the four days since the mysterious sinking of the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan, however, the reaction has indeed been calm. 

Where I’m from, a navy vessel getting sunk would provoke a pretty excited response from the citizenry, so this mellowness took me by surprise. On the morning after, I thought the entire household would be abuzz with discussion about the disaster. Not so.

My father-in-law read about the incident with interest, but he didn’t say anything about it. Same thing with my brother-in-law. He read the stories carefully and then carried on with his usual morning routine.

Later that Saturday, we visited my wife’s uncle for a long lunch. Not once in the four hours we were there did the topic come up. It was like nothing out of the ordinary had happened – just another beautiful spring day in South Korea.

The story is all over the news, of course, but nobody I’ve met is getting worked up about it. The suicide on Monday of a Korean entertainer, Choi Jin-young, is a much hotter topic.

My wife tells me her family and friends are so calm because bellicose rhetoric and aggression on the part of the neighbors to the north is such a normal part of life here. People don’t pay much attention to it.

“What you have to remember is that this is a war zone,” she says. “Not an active war zone because nothing has really happened for the last fifty-something years, but people know something can happen at any time.”

Of course, the sinking of a naval vessel is much more serious than the usual sabre rattling and small naval skirmishes, but right now there is much more that is unknown than known about what caused the disaster. South Koreans are displaying admirable restraint and taking care to get all the facts before reacting.

I think they are also hoping fervently that North Korea was not behind this. When I asked what would happen if it turns out that the North did sink the Cheonan, KJ just gives a little shrug. “We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it. Hopefully we won’t.”

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