Friday, November 26, 2010

Three Months In: A General Update

Today is November 26th, which means exactly three months ago I started working here in South Korea.  What do I think so far?

A Korean dish: Bibimbap
The Food: It took awhile, but I'm really enjoying Korean food.  In fact, the other day I came to the realization that I will miss many Korean foods when I return to Canada.  Korean barbecue is easy enough to find in Canada, but acquiring some things like dak galbi or songpyun may be a little more difficult.

The People: Korean people are an interesting group.  Koreans are fiercely loyal to their families, and intensely proud of Korean accomplishments; the Korean national identity is very strong.  Students in my class were dismayed when I told them that many people around the world don't realize how modern Korea is, but the class erupted in cheers when I told them that my best friend drives a Hyundai Tucson, and that my television back in Canada is a Samsung.

"Dynamic Seoul"
Seoul is an extremely active, busy place.  I'm amazed that, at three in the morning, there seems to be just as many vehicles driving on a main thoroughfare as most other times of the day.  Of course, at that time, well over 90% of them are taxis.  The city simply never stops.  I'm often both amazed and daunted by it.

I would be remiss if I didn't comment briefly on the events of this past Tuesday.  Supposedly in response to military exercises conducted by South Korean forces, North Korea launched a barrage of artillery shells against a South Korean island, Yeonpyeong.  The attack resulted in the deaths of two Korean marines and two civilian men and the destruction of a number of South Korean homes.  South Korea returned fire to the north with 88 artillery shells.  Damage and casualties in the north is unknown.  It is important to remember that incidents between the two Koreas happen on a regular basis.  This particular attack is a little different in that it is the first time civilian targets have been hit; however, it is by no means the most severe attack to happen.  Please know that we are completely safe and sound here in Seoul!

Defense Minister Kim Tae-Young
resigned after criticism
Yeonpyeong Island after NK shelling
Two marines and two civilians
were killed on the island

In the aftermath of this incident, the President of South Korea has declared that more troops will be stationed in the maritime border region and Washington has of course declared its solidarity with South Korea.  Also, the Korean defense minister has resigned due to public pressure with regards to how the attack was handled.  The President has stated that, in the future, Northern aggression that targets civilians will be met with harsher retaliation.  Finally, the United States has deployed a carrier group, led by the USS George Washington, to the Yellow Sea.  The only other worrying sign is that the US Navy and the ROK Navy are scheduled to participate in military exercises sometime next week, and the government in Pyongyang has stated that they will respond to this "provocation."  I had scheduled a visit to the Demilitarized Zone next week, but in light of this latest news, I've decided to hold off on that particular trip.  I do not believe that the situation will escalate significantly, but I also don't believe we have seen all of the fallout from this incident.  I do want everyone to know that I am keeping an ear to the ground, but that I am currently completely safe!  I've registered with the Canadian embassy, so if there is any reason to leave Korea quickly, I'll have support in place.

Tonight, however, will be cause for celebration.  I've signed up to a Thanksgiving dinner, put on by the group "Seoulite."  Originally, a few friends were going to come with me, but they unfortunately had to back out.  I guess I can share the bottle of wine I got us with some new friends I meet there!  I think it will be a lot of fun, and I'm really looking forward to turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and pumpkin pie.  Can't wait!  Pictures to come!


Miramanee said...

I hope everything gets worked out without more people dying. I'm glad you are safe though. Your Thanksgiving supper sounds delish! Can't wait to see you :) Miss you!

Christopher said...

Sounds like a good time. But who else do you know with a tucson? Now I'm jealous.

Kertrats said...

I don't know anyone else other than you who drives a Tucson... I know Serge and Andrea have a Santa Fe, though...