Friday, May 29, 2009

Continuing with our theme of amusing remarks coming out of Washington, Hillary Clinton said that another country has "ignored the international community" and is acting in a "provocative and belligerent manner toward its neighbors." Oh dear. Foreigners both inside and outside of Korea are flying off the handle when it comes to the prospect of annihilation at the hands of the Korean People's Army, but shiny suit-wearing South Koreans don't seem worried about it.

The newspapers and television news remain obsessed with Roh Moo Hyun. Both YTN and MBN television news discussed Roh, and the websites of the Chosun Ilbo, Dong-A Ilbo and the Joongang Ilbo give greater importance to Roh's upcoming funeral than their impending annihilation.

That's why I had to go to the New York Times to find out that the situation is so grave that the South Korean military is on its highest alert in almost three years (that's thirty-six months!). As well, the paper notes that no panic has broken out here in the face of nuclear annihilation (omigod!). The alert level is the second-highest possible, going from 3 to 2.

For any Americans reading this, that's like going from yellow to orange ("elevated" to "high") on the Homeland Security system. Needless to say, I went out to look for orange golf shirts to wear in the 30-degree heat, but without luck. Raising the level from elevated to high is like going from worried to concerned, or perhaps going from concerned to worried.

At any rate, what happened is that North Korea tested a nuclear bomb on Monday, then some short-range missiles on Tuesday. The South decided to join the Proliferation Security Initiative in response, which nominally commits it to inspecting ships suspected of carrying prohibited weapons. Since challenging North Korean ships is confrontational, it would never happen. North Korea responded by threatening to attack the South if it intercepted its ships, though it routinely threatens to attack the South anyway and the South would never actually intercept its ships.

As a result, everybody moved their ships close to the western sea border, where there were minor skirmishes earlier this decade, and now we wait.

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