No need to worry about safety in South Korea

Guy Lee

Thursday, August 24, 2017

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Within the space of a day, August 8 to August 9, 2017, North Korea's leader, Kim Jung-un, declared his plan to fire Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles into waters just 30-40 kilometres off the US-controlled Pacific island of Guam. In response, United States President Donald Trump warned Kim Jung-un not to conduct such a reckless provocation. Such an aggravation, according to President Trump, would be considered an initiation of war against the US.

This type of exchange of belligerent rhetoric between the US president and North Korea's leader may convey a very tense military situation on the Korean Peninsula itself. And this portrayal is made worse by global coverage from media companies such as CNN and BBC. This is especially the case when news reports on this matter are broadcast not just daily, but at times by the hour. Like the CNN and BBC, the media here in Jamaica has also covered and continues to cover this issue between the US and North Korea.

As a result, those outside the Korean Peninsula may be circumspect of the safety in visiting the Republic of Korea, more commonly referred to as South Korea. And that is understandable. However, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) remains a safe place for foreign visitors, whether they are from Jamaica or another country. This is given the fact that war will never occur on the Korean Peninsula regardless of the destructive rhetoric fanfare of Kim Jung-un.

It is true that some tensions may arise from the combative rhetoric of the young and reckless leader of North Korea. However, there will never ever be war or any similar serious conflict on the Korean Peninsula. This assurance is based on two fundamental reasons.

Firstly, it should be noted that South Korea's President Moon Jae-in remains resolute in keeping peace on the Peninsula. According to him, Seoul, his country's capital, and Washington share the definitive goal of peacefully dissolving tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He states, “South Korea has the final say in any military action on the peninsula, and seeking a peaceful resolution to the issue is backed by the international community. Without South Korea's consent, nobody can take military action on the Korean Peninsula.”

Supporting President Moon's statements is President Donald Trump's promise, made at the June 28, 2017 Korea-US summit. There, President Trump promised to discuss and achieve an agreement with South Korea regarding any action the US may employ against North Korea.

The second most important reason South Korea is safe is that the joint military strength of South Korea and US is far superior to North Korea's military force. This may be the pretext that North Korea uses to relentlessly and obsessively develop nuclear weapons in an effort to offset its weak military power. In addition, creating tensions is instrumental to sustaining its dictatorship, as is true for all dictatorships. This results in its continuous testing of missiles, which heightens tensions on a rhetorical level.

Nevertheless, in spite of recent tensions, North Korea will never even think of starting a war against the South Korea and the US's military alliance. It is too keenly aware of the potential devastating consequences it would suffer if it did. To add to this, the annual South Korea-US military drill currently taking place in South Korea serves to further deter North Korea from engaging in any misguided skirmishes. And this is the drill's sole purpose — to defend South Korea annually. This year's drill goes from August 21 to August 31, 2017.

Therefore, visitors to South Korea need not worry as any ordinary South Korean citizen will attest to being very familiar with North Korea's destructive rhetoric. This is why South Koreans and visitors living there can always feel safe. They are unhindered in carrying out their day-to-day activities. And, subsequently, everyday they peacefully manage their lives in spite of intermittent tensions due to North Korea's conflict-ridden rhetoric.

This stability and security, enjoyed by visitors to and citizens of South Korea, continue to be reflected, for instance, in the country's economics. According to the international credit rating agency, Standard & Poor's, South Korea's present national credit rating is AA with a stable outlook, which is excellent. Most importantly, this rating signifies that there is no threat of war on the Korean Peninsula. Hence, visitors to South Korea need not heed the destructive rhetoric touted by North Korea.

The safety, security, and stability of South Korea for its citizens and its visitors resonate in the testimonies of many foreigners. One Japanese male visitor, for instance, chose to remain in South Korea in spite of everything. He and young South Koreans are exasperated by North Korea's rhetoric of violence, but they are confidently secure in the enormous US-South Korea military might present on the Peninsula, according to the BBC. This makes them feel very safe.

In sum, what has been highlighted so far is the dynamics of South Korea, the US, and North Korea. Once this is understood, visitors and South Koreans carry on with their lives in our country without panic or fear.

So, welcome! South Korea awaits your visit with open arms and First-World security.

Young Gyu Lee is head of mission (charge d'affaires) at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Jamaica.




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