As Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Seoul approaches, and bilateral talks between North Korea and the U.S. are in the works, it would seem the winds are shifting towards increased diplomacy. An incident today between North and South Korean naval bodies suggests otherwise, as the two countries exchanged gunfire for the first time in seven years.
“North and South Korean naval vessels exchanged fire in disputed waters off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday, leaving one North Korean vessel engulfed in flames, South Korean officials said.”
Considering the magnitude a few shots could have between these two countries, especially when North Korean vessels cross borders they contest, but the majority of the international community respects, the day unfolded normally. The attack occurred before school began, and not one student or co-worker brought it up. Civil defense sirens did not ring in the streets, pausing cars at the curb (something that actually has happened in the time I’ve been here as a drill) as aircraft fly overhead. As volatile as our newly assumed neighbors to the north are, the South’s steadiness is comforting. When the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issues the statement that, “We are fully prepared for further provocations from the North Korean military,” there’s little doubt that South Korea does not train every able male countrywide solely in the name of male bonding. I suspect the calm of the streets will continue. We shall see just how “conciliatory” North Korea is feeling.
We were told this week by our Academic Coordinator that in the event we do close, all teachers are expected to come in on Saturdays and Sundays to make up for lost time. Rumors about a government edict closing all the schools abound but we have not heard anything official from the Government.
According to the Korea Times, the government raised its alert status this week, and is stepping up flu prevention strategies:
The country had maintained its “orange” alert status since July 21 but decided to raise it as an average of 8,857 people caught the new flu per day last week, up from 4,420 tallied for the week before. A total of 42 people have died in South Korea from the flu since mid-August.
Government efforts will be focused on coping with serious flu cases and vaccinating about 35 percent of the population as soon as possible to safeguard public health, the ministry said.
I’m just glad I’m part of the public option health plan.
Our good friends Anna and Andre over at Seoulful Adventures just posted a great post and video that more vividly details our encounter with the notorious Hagfish. This is a fish so disgusting “[its] other name is the slime eel because their defense mechanism is to produce a mucus that turns into unbelievable quantities of slime when mixed with water.” This is the fish, you’ll recall, that was impaled and skinned alive before our very eyes and then proceeded to redefine the word “writhe” for all who bore witness.