The escalating crisis with North Korea has been a frequent topic of discussion in American media coverage since January, but for South Korea native and Belmont professor Dr. Doyeun Ko, the tension is old news.
“Since they divided North and South in 1953 after the Korean War, tensions have happened every year,” Ko said. “So now, when I meet any young Korean people when I go back, they don’t care. They don’t even listen to the news.”
“They don’t care, because it’s been like that for 60 years.”
Ko helps lead a Maymester trip to Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, along with Dr. Amy Crook — another Belmont professor whose father grew up in Seoul.
Crook agreed that the general population in South Korea is not concerned about the North Korean missile testing.
“They’ve been saying, ‘we’re going to come bulldoze you and bomb you and attack you’ every year. All day, all the time, it’s nothing new. The rhetoric is the exact same — what’s potentially different is that they seem to actually have some missiles that could do more damage,” she said.
Ko also believes that the rhetoric and diplomacy of President Donald Trump could potentially alter the tentative balance North and South Korea have built.
“Between South and North, they know how to balance. But when you have a powerful leader like Trump doing some subjective evaluation and personal evaluation of the situation, it doesn’t really help,” he said.
Despite the change in leadership, the professors don’t expect their Maymester trip to be affected. However, they are still taking the necessary precautions.
“We’re not worried, but we have to have a policy. So the school has it’s own policy, there is a professional agency who we always communicate with and they have a policy,” said Ko. “We know there is a possible tension, and we are closely monitoring the situation.”
But for right now, it’s business as usual.
“Right now I’m not worried,” Crook said. “If we were going tomorrow, I would have zero concerns about going.”