Last August, two Korean soldiers sustained serious injuries such as amputations due to mines that North Korea had planted. Because of this North Korean military provocation, which violated the ceasefire agreement, the government of South Korea demanded an apology and punishment of the people in charge. However, North Korea ignored the demand resulting in South Korea to resume the broadcast of propaganda beamed towards North Korea.
After that, North Korea demanded the stop to the broadcasts, threating to take military action if the South didn’t comply. The South Korea government suggested a summit but the North Korean government keep silent on the subject, so the conflict between the two Koreas was deepen and escalated as time went on. North Korea went as far as to shell South Korea. The conflict was solved on August, 25th with the North Korean government expressing regret over the incident.
A noticeable issue through this conflict was the changing of the national emotion in South Korea in dealing with the North Korean threat. When the Cheonan ship was sunk and the bombardment of Yeonpyeong island occurred in 2010, public opinion in Korea was broken up for several ways. For example, when a military conflict breakouts between the two countries, South Koreans were very nervous and became confused between facts and fiction often causing disputes regarding who or what caused the initial conflict. Also, some nations blamed the South Korea government because they thought the government did not properly deal with the North Korean provocations. However, South Koreans showed a different reactions about the 2015 conflict. Notably, soldiers who were recently discharged from the military delayed their discharge date and discharged soldiers show their willingness to confront the North Korean provocation by reenlisting. Also, Korean citizens didn’t seem overly agitated while maintaining a calm mind. The public sentiment was solely focused on how to counteract North Korea’s wrong behavior.
What are some possible reasons for the change in Korean’s attitude when handling North Korean provocations? First, the South Korean government’s reaction was much faster than in the past. The government quickly determined that the mine accident was caused by North Korea and quickly demanded an apology. Suggesting a summit, the South Korea government also pressured North Korea through its continuous propaganda broadcast. In sum, the government’s quick action gave trust to its citizens so they were not nervous, and calmly watch the conflict resolution progress. Second, South Koreans dislike North Korea’s repetitive military provocations, so they want to deal with the conflict strongly to prevent its reoccurrence. In the past, there were many controversies on SNS such as Twitter and Facebook regarding the conflicts with North Korea. However, this time, the opinions on SNS concentrated on giving support to the government’s action, instead of further instigating the issue by offering false theories.
South Korean’s changed attitude was also influenced by the awareness of foreigners in South Korea. Conflicts between the North and South has given a bad image to foreigners in past. Because of these repetitive conflicts, people who don’t know about Korea very well still think of it as an unsafe war-torn area. These negative perceptions has some bad effects to South Korea. For example, whenever North Korea provokes South Korea, stock prices in the KOSPI drop and foreign tourists usually tend to cancel trips. This damages the South Korean economy. However, foreign opinion on these conflicts have also changed. Despite the serious conflict last August, stock prices of KOSPI showed less of a change than in the past. Also, foreign tourists did not cancel their trips to South Korea in great numbers. Foreigners who live in South Korea were not nervous too, and weren’t too concerned about North Korea’s provocation. A Japanese student who has lived in South Korea during the last 4 months said that he didn’t share the news of the North Korean military attack with his friends and that most people in his surrounding were not nervous. Furthermore, he criticized some magazines in Japan that gave an exaggerated coverage of the issue rather than purely reporting the facts. Some foreigners share that it is well known that if North Korea invaded the South, the US and UN would help South Korea, so they will not start a war.
YU students who majored at the Park Chung Hee School of Policy and Saemaul (PSPS) gave their opinions about conflicts between the two Koreas.
Some students said they did not have a bad image and that their friends and family also did not have interested in the two Korea’s conflict. However, other students answered they knew of the conflict between the two Koreas and worried about it. Also, friends and families of foreign students also worried about them being in South Korea while studying-abroad and they still did not fully distinguish between the North and the South but rather viewed them both as being North Korea. However, most foreign students generally thought of South Korea as a developed country and changed their opinions about the country after visiting.