Friday, June 12, 2009

Dangerous Korea?

Having spent some years in South Korea, with three trips to the DMZ and once across, I'm often asked by friends in Europe & the USA -- how dangerous is South Korea?

It's a tough question to answer. South Koreans don't feel much danger, but proximity to North Korea is certainly a problem. It's only 35 miles (55 kms) from the DPRK border to Seoul, 120 miles (190 kms) between Seoul & Pyongyang. It's costly to be bottled-up on the Korean peninsula by an unpredictable neighbor.

In terms of marketing, people around the world are both confused & frightened by the jointly-used name "Korea"...

There are smaller problems in living anywhere; sometimes irritation seems to accumulate. In Korea I've been bothered that incoming international mail is a few days slower to arrive than to Japan or Europe or the USA. It was also an irritant that an international service I use regularly will not ship to Korea (VistaPrint; they ship to 120 other countries...). An associated problem is finding Korea in international postage lists: is it under "K" for Korea, "S" for South Korea, "R" for Republic of Korea, or is it not listed...?

Some weaknesses leave locals unfazed, but I've been surprised: the university regularly issued us medicine to kill intestinal parasites. And don't drink the tap water!

But most people in South Korea prefer not to think about these wider problems, and don't spend time worrying about them. People busily focus on the everyday business of life.