19 May 2010

Possible complications to this summer

In late March, the South Korean naval destroyer Cheonan sank under mysterious circumstances, claiming 46 lives. And as an international investigation concludes, it appears that not surprisingly, a North Korean torpedo is most likely to blame.


As I prepare for what may become several more months of life in Seoul, it bears remembering that the war never ended on the Korean peninsula, and only a 57-year-old cease-fire is keeping the hostilities from resuming. Having made the border areas part of my 2008 road trip, I have seen things first-hand.

This despicable development, according to those in the know (including, according to another BBC analytic article, a North Korean lieutenant who defected south and claims to continue contacts with his former colleagues north), is a way for North Korea to respond to South Korea's cutoff of unconditional aids, and to pressures from the US and the international community to return to nuclear disarmament talks. There is also a need for North Korea to "demonstrate" that even in the midst of a power transfer from Kim Jong-il to his third son, things remain "in control." Though methinks a deadly form of provocation like this is very likely to backfire badly.

Any sign of open hostilities would easily put my meditation plans into chaos, for sure. But on the other hand, even sitting in the US will not be a guarantee of safety. The South Korean far-right and the Korean-Americans, having already successfully convinced half of America that President Obama is a Muslim extremist, do need their excuse for more despicable McCarthyist activities after all, and there is no better excuse than northern hostilities. I will be vigilant wherever I am - and I am staying away from far-right propaganda-laden Korean restaurants (that's all Korean restaurants in the US, except for Brothers in San Francisco), until further notice. (I'm also boycotting fellow McCarthyists of Vietnamese restaurants for the same reason.)