People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast on North Korea's unidentified ballistic missile launch at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, April 16, 2017. North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile on Sunday morning that exploded almost immediately after launch, defying warnings from the Trump administration to avoid any further provocations. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Harvard-Westlake High School

Are you scared? South Korean teens discuss North Korean threat

As North Korea’s Kim Jong Un continues to test nuclear weapons, tensions between North Korea and the United States grow. On Nov. 7, President Donald J. Trump during a speech at South Korea’s National Assembly, addressed North Korea, saying “Do not underestimate us. Do not try us.”  Although no nuclear attacks have taken place, tensions between the countries continue.

U.S. media is flooded with reports and analysis about the hostility and there seems to be a general concern about the future of both the Asia-Pacific region and the United States.

With the ongoing discussions in the United States about nuclear war and instability, I wondered what teenagers living in South Korea think about the issue. So, I asked 16-year-old, HanJoon Cho, 16-year-old YoungHeon Lee, and 15-year-old Isabella Chung, about their thoughts on the threats facing their country. Based on their answers,  Kim Jong Un’s threats are just that, only threats.

The teenagers all had a general idea about the history between North and South Korea, which they learned at school. One of the respondents said that he also learned about the conflict through discussions at home.

They were asked to rank on a scale of one to five, one being never and five being always, how often they worried about the threat of North Korea. All three teenagers responded with a “two.”

Chung’s school participates in emergency drills every Wednesday, but when asked if she thinks North Korea poses a threat to South Korea, she responded, “I do think that they are threatening us… I am not afraid or freaked out. They are just like babies raising knives and demanding cookies.”

Cho doesn’t think war will happen either.

“War won’t get any merit to both sides,” he said.

Although all three teenagers have participated in emergency drills preparing for possible war, they rarely think about the threat and feel generally secure in their country.

On the other hand, people in the U.S seem anxious of a nuclear war with North Korea. Lee, however, feels safe in his boarding school in the mountains and doesn’t see the possibility of large-scale war. Even though he thinks war is unlikely, he still believes the instability in the region is harmful.

“Of course NK [North Korea] is a big threat. Any military conflict, even though it is not a war, will directly impact to the security of people in South Korea… Foreigners will not invest in South Korea market due to security reasons,” he said.

Cho also believes that North Korea poses a threat, but like Lee, doesn’t think a war is likely to break out.

After the Korean War ended in 1953, North Korea cut off almost all connections with the outside world, but continuously made drastic threats against South Korea. South Korea has lived the last 60 years receiving many threats from North Korea.

“North Korea has been always threatening us, but they never really started a war,” Cho said.

For all three teenagers, the length of the threats and tension with no large-scale war since the Korean War, implied that odds of war were low. They seemed accustomed to the rhetoric of North Korea.

“I see more conflict these days is between North Korea and U.S., rather than North Korea and South Korea,” said Lee.

Rather than criticizing North Korea’s government, citizens are talking, according to Cho, “…more about the situation of South Korea’s government. About former President Park and the new president…”

The teens believed that even though South Korea is held as a threat, their peers are talking more about the weather and their highly competitive studies rather than the North Korean topic.

The teenagers I interviewed may have a negative view towards North Korea, but even so, two of the three clearly stated they want both Koreas to unify. Acknowledging the differences between the two nations, they still consider themselves as brothers.

Chung believes, “We [North and South Koreans] can understand more about each other, and build more political powers and authorities. We are one nation.”