What a weird feeling walking through a Korean town and having a meal. Today’s nuclear test by the DPRK has sent shockwaves through South Korea and in the reaction within small provincial town of Inje where we are – not far south of the DMZ – I’m guessing is typical. As the obligatory television sets in every shop and home blare endless re-runs of the footage and calming speeches by South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, one cannot escape the reality that the North’s action has mesmerised this nation.
We’re near a military base and certainly activity there is anything but quiet. But the opinion in the streets of the town next to this base seems divided – older folk are genuinely scared, even blaming the Sunshine Policy for ignoring the reality that the DPRK is a beligerent nation state. But younger folk seem more to take the view that the North’s actions have come about because of the constant bullying from the USA. In many ways the two views reflect the dichotomy of opinion here about the role of the US on the peninsula – olgder members of society believing that its presence is the only reason that South Korea exists while many younger people see it as the cause of trouble.
President Roh is alreay beleagured here in the South for taking too soft a stance towards the DPRK and the fact that while this approach has been going on the North has just marched steadfastly towards missiles and nuclear bom capability, is unlikely to endear the President to the people of South Korea. At first blush I’d have thought things here are about to get pretty hard-assed.