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Tension in Korea

Just a note of reassurance to my friends and family who read this blog. As everyone probably knows, there is a high level of tension right now between South Korea and the United States on one side and North Korea on the other. In my opinion, the U.S. didn’t help matters any by sending over B-2 bombers to participate in ongoing military exercises, which set off the fools in the north to declare that their rockets are now in stand-by mode “to settle accounts with the U.S.”

It’s highly unlikely that the North will commit itself to all-out war, since their leaders are renowned for bombastic rhetoric. Most of their crap is intended for domestic consumption to prove just what a tough “warrior” Kim Jong-eun is. I’ve not talked to any Korean that is all that concerned about a war breaking out. More likely is that the North will wait until the current U.S.-S.Korean military exercises are over at the end of April and will then commit some provocation to inflame the South, as has happened many times in the past. The problem there is how far can the South be provoked, and how many times, until their patience gives out.

So, yes, there’s probably a bit of worry right now, but no one that I personally know of is freaking out about the possibility of war. The other expats here and I are not going to hunker down in our apartments losing sleep and worrying about the childish behavior of Cousin Kim to the north. Let’s hope that cooler heads prevail, though. More later.

World’s Most Dangerous Golf Course

So, you say you want to play golf in Korea and you’d like a challenging course? Well, the course across from the university, the Yeosu City Park Golf Course, is located on the side of a steep hill.

Yeosu City Park golf course

Yeosu City Park Golf Course

According to one of my students who often golfs there, it costs 90,000 won for 18 holes, but you also have to pay for a mandatory caddy, which costs another 90,000 won; however you can split the caddy fee between the other three people if you’re playing in a foursome. So, you’d pay about 112,000 won, $100 at the current exchange rate. That’s way too steep for me.

It also looks a little tame. If I were going to play, I’d want something more edgy, something with a little danger involved, like alligators or piranhas in the water hazards. Well, here’s a course for me and for you, if you’re up to it. According to the Total Pro Sports website, this layout is

 a golf course that has just one hole, live mine fields surrounding it on all sides, a sniper tower just past the green, and is located on the boarder [sic] between two countries that have a history of fighting between them. If this sounds like your “cup of tea,” you may want to consider taking a trip to Camp Bonifas’ golf course in Panmunjom, South Korea.

 

It’s a 192-yard, par-3 hole located on the DMZ between North and South Korea. On this course, if you shank a shot out of bounds, definitely don’t go looking for your ball! The website doesn’t indicate if life insurance is included with the green fee.

North and South at it Again

A few days ago I received a warning from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul as part of their emergency warning system to U.S. citizens who are enrolled in the program. The email’s subject line is “Announcement of One-Day Military Firing Exercise in Northwest Islands Off the Coast of Korea Between Dec. 18-21, 2010.”

Yes, it seems that South Korea is going to conduct live-fire exercises on the same island that was attacked by the North a few weeks ago. The email goes on to say:

This warden message is being issued in response to the announcement on December 16, 2010, by the Government of the Republic of Korea that it will “hold a one-day live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong Island between Dec. 18 and 21.” The Embassy does not assess that there has been an increase in the threat environment in South Korea.

Given the increased tensions since the North Korean shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, 2010, it is understandable that U.S. citizens would be concerned regarding the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. However, the Embassy reminds U.S. citizens in the Republic of Korea that military training exercises are routinely conducted throughout South Korea throughout the year, to include civil defense drills normally held eight (8) times a year. U.S. citizens should stay informed through local media about upcoming military exercises and civil defense drills that sometimes occur at short notice and for which the Embassy will not routinely provide advance notification. The Embassy continues to closely monitor the current situation. Should the security situation change, the Embassy will update this warden message.

Now, South Korea, which claims the island as part of its territory, has every right to conduct the drill, but I thought at the time that it would be a very provocative action. Sure enough, there are many reports, including this one from the Wall Street Journal, that quote North Korean officials as saying that it will “attack South Korea more violently than it did last month if Seoul proceeds with plans to test-fire artillery from the island Pyongyang shelled.” Most South Korean and American officials are downplaying the likelihood of that happening, but who knows about the crazies up north.

Since today is the 18th, we’ve got about 4 days to see how this plays out. Stay tuned for more.

Korean Tension Update

Not much to report from Yeosu, but CNN earlier quoted the South Korean Yonhap News Agency as saying that the North had fired off a couple of surface-to-air missiles today. It might be an erroneous report because I haven’t heard anything more of it. Not sure what they might have fired at–the war “games” won’t start for a couple of hours yet and they are pretty far from the area of the attacks of a few days ago. Hopefully, all of this will pass peacefully, with no escalation into something more calamitous. More later.

Update at 12:52 p.m. local time: Reuters Canada is reporting that Yonhap stated the North has placed surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads and has deployed surface-to-air missiles in the area of the previous attacks. No mention of any SAMs being fired, but other sources report that artillery fire was heard on Yeonpyeong Island and residents were ordered into shelters. There’s been no report of any shells hitting the island, though. (A more recent report says that people were in the shelters for 40 minutes and left them when it was decided that there was no danger.)

Field Trip Revisited

As I mentioned before, we had a full-day field trip this past Saturday, so here are a few of the supposedly funny pictures my students and I took for entry into the English festival tomorrow. While they may not be all that hilarious, we had a great time taking them and visiting the various sites in Yeosu. With the new blogging software, just click on the photo to get a larger picture and click again for the maximum size. You’ll have to click the back button on your browser to return to the main page.

Here’s a shot of the four of us in the parking lot at Hyangiram Temple. From the left, the students are Kyung-hoon (kyuhng-hoon), Sun-tak (soon-tahk) in the middle at the bottom and Jong-cheon (Johng-chuhn) on the right. Yours truly is wearing the hat.

Funny_Picture1W

This one is at the Odong Island lighthouse, where we’re attempting to mimic the light house logo. There was too much contrast for my small digital camera to handle, so I played around with the shot in Photoshop to try to cut down on the glare from the upper right portion. Not entirely successful, but better than the original.

Funny_Picture5w

I suppose everyone’s heard about the altercation between the South and North Korean navies. Not really a big deal, as it’s happened before, but I hope things don’t escalate into something more serious. Most Koreans that I talk to are ho-hum about the event. Business as usual. The article states that Pres. Obama is visiting South Korea soon as part of a trip to Asia, beginning Thursday. As much as I browse the news daily, that’s one thing I didn’t know. Wonder if he’s coming to Yeosu? :-)