Where Is It Safe?
Since I started working here in South Korea in 2013, friends and relatives back in the Philippines keep asking me if it is safe to work here. They questioned my decision of leaving a good position in a peaceful region in my country in favor of a teaching job in a foreign land that at any time might plunge into an armed conflict with its neighbor. They asked me if the better job opportunities I have here is worth the trouble that I could get myself into if the North Korean military decide to cross the 38th parallel line and invade the Southern part of the peninsula.
Well, I understand they are worried about me. I thanked them for their concern but I assured them that I can take care of myself. I know exactly what to do (and where to go) should hostilities between the countries resume. That’s the way we should say it – “resumption of hostilities” – because technically the two Koreas are still at war. The Korean Armistice Agreement signed in 1953 called only for the cessation of hostilities until a final peaceful settlement is agreed. That final peaceful settlement, unfortunately, remains elusive.
I told them that when I decided to work here I was well aware of what the situation is and what could happen. I am ready for that. But I argued at the same time that a full-scale armed conflict will not happen. I said that Kim Jong Un is not “completely insane” to use the North’s nukes to bomb any country. If he does so, it would give the USA and her Western allies, the reason to use the full might of their military, including nuclear weapons, against North Korea. And the result will be very catastrophic for them.
I also made my friends understand that they should not worry too much about the situation here because China, and perhaps even Russia, will do everything to prevent North Korea from going too far. Beijing knows too well that a nuclear conflict in the Korean peninsula will have devastating effects to them also. I added that Kim Jong Un, will just keep on testing the missiles, and might continue to develop a nuclear arsenal if they will not be convinced to discontinue it, only as a defensive posture. I insisted that that North Korea’s will continue doing what it has been doing for as long as the US military keeps its presence in South Korea.
They used the word provocation to describe Kim Jong Un’s acts. I replied by saying that it’s hard to determine who is provoking who pointing out that as far as I know the tension here gets extremely high during the months that US, South Korea and Japan conduct their annual military exercises. It is then that North Korea would behave in the way they have been doing as if trying to send a message across the DMZ that they are ready in case they get attacked.
They asked also if staying here is worth the risk? It is! It’s not because the pasture here is a lot greener than in the Philippines. Professionally and personally, I have made tremendous improvement since I came here. Being here in South Korea allowed me to pursue my other passion – writing. It gave me the opportunity to do research for presentation in international conferences and publication in international journals. I even had extra time to read and… go to the gym.
Then they averred. Still, it’s not safe!
My response was, “Where is it safe anyway?”
The question is – “Is there any place, any country in the world, where people can rest assured that they will survive the night and see the light of day?
Here is another question… “What’s the difference living in a country where an armed conflict might erupt anytime and in one where people who own automatic rifles might just decide to pull the trigger for no reason at all?”
If your country is safe… no conflict with any of its neighbors… no bomb might explode anytime… nobody might just spray you with bullets… no stranger might just suddenly stab you… no vehicle might just run you over… no drug addicts might steal from you and kill you afterward… and your politicians, policemen, and military are not apprentices of the devil… you’re so lucky. Or perhaps, you’re only dreaming… for such country doesn’t exist.
So, where is it safe?
Tell me if you know the answer.