War rumors might do us some good
The only problem is the “burn” part. She had prominent red burns all over her face and neck. Some children cried when they saw her for the first time. Most of her fingers were covered in scars. She was burned as a teenager by bombing during the Korean War. She must be in her 80s now.
When my generation was young, we all saw people living with scars. There were veterans with amputated arms and mothers still waiting for their lost sons years later. In the monsoon season, lost shells exploded in the mountains. We used ammunition boxes as sleds and army helmets as buckets.
Moreover, the stories we heard from parents who experienced the 1950-53 Korean War made us understand how real and devastating war can be. My mother was abducted by armed guerillas and ran away. My father had brushes with death while crossing the 38th parallel. A relative who was with the ROK Army said that the unit was retreating at night and he found himself plodding along with the People’s Army.
The six decades since the cease-fire in 1953 were an unprecedented period in Korean history with no full-scale warfare. Western countries and Japan began invading Korean territories since the mid-19th century. During the Russo-Japanese and the First Sino-Japanese Wars, the lands and seas of Korea were the battlefields. The Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War during the Japanese occupation brought tremendous suffering to the Korean people.
Needless to say, the Korean War left the entire country devastated. The series of armed guerilla penetrations and terror attacks, the sea clash near Yeonpyeong Island and the attack on the Cheonan warship have reminded us that all-out war was not far away. In fact, the war is not yet over, and Korea has been in a state of armistice for the last 60 years.
We have to think about a crisis when everyone is still safe. As Pyongyang made threats such as “nuclear sea of fire” and “second Korean war,” war rumors are fast spreading over KakaoTalk and other social networks. There were groundless stories that schools closing nationwide, or the fire in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, were orchestrated by the North.
Excessive panic is certainly a problem, but insensitivity to war is also very dangerous. Insecurity is contagious, but after the initial panic, we can calmly think about causes and responses. The rumors may actually be a good thing for the generation that doesn’t know war.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.