Korean War of Words and Cherry Blossoms
During the last couple of weeks, the major international news organizations have been making a big fuss about the recent battle of words between North Korea and the U.S. [l] What may be surprising to many is that the South Koreans themselves are not particularly worried about this issue. And, indeed, there may be little to worry about. After winning the Korean space race [l] a few months ago (more on this below), the North Korean government won the praise and admiration of its people — there is hence little chance of its regime collapsing or entering a suicidal armed conflict with its next-door neighbor. Rather, the “war of words” we have witnessed in the last 2 weeks is a reaction of the North Korean government to the recent sanctions imposed by the UN after it successfully placed a satellite into orbit — sanctions that North Korea considers unfair. And maybe the North does have a point this time around: when the South launches a satellite into orbit, it is touted as a great technical achievement; when the North does the same, it is vilified as a disguised missile test. The North argues that its satellite launch was not a missile test: a missile test would not have aimed to reach orbit and would have involved the testing of an horizon stabilizer and the nosetip ablation during reentry. Perhaps we in the west missed the point here (as we often do with respect to North Korean affairs): this was not a missile test, but a space race which the North won hands down. Indeed, not only did the North reach orbit almost 2 months before the South, but it did so by developing indigenously most of the components of their access-to-space vehicle — something that the South could not manage. In light of this, it is perhaps not surprising that the North considers the recent UN sanctions unfair, and is concerned about the recent deployment of U.S. military material nearby its borders. It is also perhaps not surprising that the North Korean state-owned media comdemned such sanctions and military deployments using a strong rhetoric.

Although these details are not so well known outside of Korea, they are common knowledge amongst the South Koreans, and few are worried here about the recent bashing from the North. And this is well reflected by what can be seen on the streets of Korean cities these days. Here are a few pictures I took on Friday March 29th (when the "war of words" was near its peak) while walking around the campus of Pusan National University. The spring is coming, the cherry trees are blooming, and love is in the air! The atmosphere couldn't be more jovial throughout the country.

 In front of the humanities building, some students are celebrating the coming of the spring... to the beats of a Davichi song..

 Let's follow the students towards the library #2 (the building on the left).

 Student taking a picture of his friends (in the background: Geumjeong district of Busan).

 Going up the hill towards the main students dormitory.

 The students dormitory (male and female), all surrounded by the cherry blossoms.

 Going back down from the dormitory. In the distant background (in the valley between the mountains) can be seen the top floors of the Daewoo Prugio towers — my current residence [l].

 A student taking a picture of her friend with the cherry blossoms nearby the basketball courts (on the right).

Ihope these beautiful sceneries of joyful Korean students help in dissolving the image that the peninsula is on the brink of war — the Koreans are having fun as usual and they intend to keep it this way. I also wish that the U.S. and South Korean militaries exercise more caution when deploying troops and making drills close to the 37th parallel. The timing and location for such deployments and drills often backs the North Korean government in a corner where, to keep face, it has not much choice but to fight back using bellicose rhetoric.
 03.29.13
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