Expats in South Korea fear escalation of threat from the north

Published:  2 Jun at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, China, Teach Abroad
As tensions on the Korean peninsula rise, expats working in South Korea are expressing their fears for their futures.

Over 100,000 American expats are living and working in South Korea, with most based in Seoul, just 35 miles form the border with the North. They’re well used to hearing threats from North Korea’s unstable leader, having taken them as empty bluster in the past. Nowadays, it’s a totally different story, mostly down to their new president, Donald Trump, whose words and action may precipitate the war they’ve been fearing all along.

Tense times come as standard in the south, especially when the annual springtime joint military USA/South Korean drills are taking place, but this year no-one factored in the Trump effect. In early April, the Trump tweet indicating America might take on the north if China refused to act changed everything, with former apathy turning to fear as tensions escalated.

One university teacher who’d lived in Seoul since 2001 told local media reporters she feels Trump is even more unpredictable than Kim Jong Un, quoting as examples the US president’s bombing of Syria and Afghanistan as well as his sending warships to the peninsula. An American woman who’s been resident in Seoul for five years said she wasn’t afraid when Obama was president as he was a level-headed leader.

Trump, she continued, shows his aggression and stubbornness through his tweets, making her think his unpredictability is going to get expats and South Koreans alike killed in the first few weeks of a war she now believes might actually happen. China’s part in the scenario isn’t helping to calm expat fears of nuclear annihilation, as it seems the Chinese are more concerned about preventing North Korean refugees from entering China than in helping shut Kim Jong Un down permanently.

Already, some 150,000 Chinese troops have been massed at North Korea’s northern border, and China is staying quiet about any diplomatic or trade measures it might be taking to keep the Dear Leader under some form of control. Expats in Seoul, it seems, will just have to wait it out and hope for the best, along with the country’s entire population.
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