Should Expat English Teachers Be Afraid of the North Korea and China Situation?

North and South Korea are technically still at war and of course we all know the supporting allies for each country are China and the United States, respectively. There are various opinions on the whole entire conundrum, but one thing we can all agree on, especially those of us actually in South Korea, is that the situation can be a little disconcerting.

For those of us who are here teaching and have been through those school days designated for mock disaster/war rehearsals, I’m sure we can agree that the situation on the peninsula went from being an online news story we read in the comfort of our own homes to a stark reality.

Not only do we as expats come to appreciate the tension more, but many of us start to look more meaningfully into the situation as a whole. This includes forming our own opinions on China and the presence of the United States in this region of the world.

So when China recently unilaterally expanded their airspace to include an area including some disputed islands in the region, it caused for some ruffled feathers. Sovereign airspace can be a gray area at times as it generally includes areas in the oceans and seas. I won’t get into the nitty gritty details of it all since I assume you’re probably somewhat familiar with the situation.

As a foreign English teacher in South Korea, the tension created by this action started to make me a bit leery. Even though it was not directly related to North Korea (this ONE time!), anything that happens in this region involving China, Japan, and the Koreas tend to irritate any calm that had previously been established. Even though all South Koreans tend to write off essentially all actions by North Korea, in this case something made me feel different.

In America, our media tends to use itself to form perceptions based on whatever agendas may be present at that time. So I quickly learned that there is a large gap between our perceptions of North Korea coming from the West and those shared by South Koreans.

Even though I live here in South Korea, I still get my information from American outlets.

One important thing to keep in mind is that we live in a much more “intimate” global setting than 50 years ago. Overt military decisions are nearly impossible to go unnoticed and there is much more accountability for decisions and actions by any nation. The fears that I may have are rooted in the perceptions I’ve formed through growing up in America. But the reality is, the doomsday scenarios that our media hint at are so very unlikely because of the new global environment we live in.

I liken it to flying. We all know that statistically speaking, flying is the safest form of travel in the world. Even so, we still know that planes go down every so often. So in my case, there’s still a part of me that is freaked out by turbulence! So is there a threat of something actually going down here in South Korea? Yes. But it’s very unlikely.

I tend to make myself step away from looking at things from a news story perspective, or one of a military action. I’ve learned to look at the whole more (as I grow older and grayer!). I remind myself that in between the saber rattling, and joint military exercises, and former NBA freak shows I’m so proud to be associated with…is life. Life is just going on and people are traveling, buying stuff, going to school, starting families, and even trying to build bridges between nations. To go against all that is happening in real life, as well as the international accountability would be extremely drastic and in my opinion, unlikely.

Kind of like the airplane scenario. Unless you fly Qantas like the Rainman. Then it’s all good.

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