[OP-ED] Young South Korean Creatives Weigh In On North Korea

Matt Maraia, Aug. 2, 2017, 4:50 p.m.

We live in a time with excess talk on terrorism, post-truths, global warming and war; watching the news these days is an experience that can only be described as surreal. An ongoing bone of contention has been the growing crisis with North Korea, with tensions between the mysterious state and the west escalating rapidly. Things got real really fast, and the complex nature of global politics means that what was just another story has now turned into talk that a third world war could actually happen.

If you’re in need of a quick refresher as to what’s going on, it goes something like this: North Korea has been testing missiles with a view to developing nuclear weapons all the while eschewing warnings from America and the international community. The former has never enjoyed the coziest of relationships with North Korea in the past, but with two leaders who could be described as volatile at best and warmongering at worst, it does feel slightly different this time around. It’s hard not to feel alarmed at headlines like “North Korea ‘ready for nuclear attack’ amid show of force.”

Technically still at war with one another, South Korea is the country affected most by what’s going on. It’s citizens have to contend with chilling new headlines on a daily basis. Recently a few local South Korean creatives were interviewed about their feeling towards the growing tensions with the North.

Kathleen Hanhee Kye, KYE @kkye

The whole conflict with North Korea is something that’s always been there and heavily influenced us in daily life; it’s not a new issue at all. South Korea has been going through a real chaotic period with President Park Geun-hye for a while, and now she’s been impeached. We just got a new president, Moon Jae-in, and people are excited about that.

North Korea has been a global problem for a long time, but people are worried even more because the current leaders are so impulsive. It worries me, but it doesn’t really affect my daily life. Business between China and South Korea isn’t the best because of it — and I myself am affected by that. I hope things will gradually get better now that we are under a new government.

Junyong Lim, Posh Projects @poshproject

Even if the foreign news is bad, the atmosphere in Seoul is bright. We’ve elected a new president — the one which the young people of South Korea wanted — so I’m optimistic about the future of our country. We think he can play a good role in delegating between the U.S. and North Korea.

I do not worry too much. Korea is a divided country and there have been many such crises, but we have always resolved them. I believe that many young people and artists in our country will have the opportunity of a future with creative jobs. As mentioned above, there have been lots of crises with North Korea, but South Korea has always acted wisely and will do so again here. North Korea’s provocation is wrong.

David Tu Sun Song, Photographer  @davidtusunsong

Seoul has been in chaos for months due to the presidential scandal, but already it is getting better. The threat from North Korea has always been uncomfortable, but recently it’s been more disturbing — even pressuring the south into a little bit of disorder. Despite these upsetting situations, I have hope we’ll stay strong and overcome the despair. [It feels different] after President Trump got elected, [mainly because of his] unpredictable characteristics. I’ve been worried about how he will react to North Korea’s threat.

After the recent presidential scandal, a lot of young people are highly interested in politics. We recognize the Korean War is not over yet. Therefore, we listen attentively to news in regard to North Korea, closely observing any changes. Personally, I think the collapse of the North Korean government will play a crucial role in sorting out this chaos — whether it is war or a coup. As a person who was born in New York and grew up in South Korea before serving in R.O.K Army as a combat photographer, I’ve witnessed the strength of the South Korean armed forces. Factor in the US army forces and I am not worried at all [about] North Korea’s threat.

Jodae, Graffiti Artist @jodae

Summer is coming and the atmosphere in Seoul is bright. In May, the new president was elected, and for a few days, his moves seemed to fix the things that have been going wrong over the last eight years. I look forward to seeing whether he will remove the decayed roots of the previous system. We are not a generation of war and we do not feel it. War is fatal. I do not want to pretend to know.

Yang Jun Hyeong, Photographer @onmetvetements

Most foreign countries think South Korea is confronting a really dangerous situation. But actually, we feel it’s not that serious. Most people live their lives as usual. Including me. It’s always been like this. I think really young people such as middle school and high school students are worried because they are not familiar with the conditions. We recently changed presidents, so I will wait and see how he reacts to North Korea’s provocations.

Taejun Kwon, Soulites Magazine @ideabig

At the moment, Seoul has external and internal political problems. Internal problems are being solved one-by-one, and people are looking for stability. But the external problem is still in conflict.

The people have been dulled by the provocations of North Korea because of the friction existing for a long time, but the latest provocation of North Korea by Kim Jong Un is more violent and stimulating.

[The crisis] is often mentioned, for example, in trivial conversations, but it has not yet had a significant impact. It does not come as a matter of great concern.

Most young men receive a security education in the military, but even those don’t feel any greater danger. Young people are more worried about their future in the difficult economic situation.

It is difficult to foresee, but the new president will seek a peaceful agreement. I believe in him.

Young Min Lee, VIVASTUDIO @vivastudioo

The current atmosphere is good. The local brand market is growing, there are a lot of fresh local brands, and young designers are not afraid. The presidential election is over and [things] are stable.

The provocation from North Korea is nothing new. This has been happening all the time, and two years ago a missile even landed on an island in the West Sea.

I’m not really worried. I hope that Trump will talk with [China President] Xi Jinping and things can be sorted from there.

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