Living with the North Korean threat

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have risen in recent weeks, with Pyongyang unleashing war threats against the United States and its allies. What is it like living within striking range of North Korea's artillery and missiles? Our correspondents in South Korea and Japan take stock of the mood in these two countries.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the defence detachment on Jangjae Islet on May 5, 2017.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the defence detachment on Jangjae Islet on May 5, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

South Koreans unfazed by North's 'usual' sabre-rattling

While their government and military are keeping watch on nuclear- armed North Korea amid current tensions, many South Koreans are in holiday mode this week.

"To a certain extent, we are immune to North Korea's provocative actions over the years," said financial consultant Kim Min Ji, 27, who read about North Korea's failed missile test last Saturday in the news but did not bother with the details.

She is taking a break with her family in south-eastern Ulsan city because of the Golden Week holidays.

Event organiser Jeong Da Hye,27, said only the older generation, like her parents who are in their 50s, are worried about talk of a military option, which could lead to full-out war. "But I think those are just political calculations... Missile and nuclear threats are the usual thing."

As the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a truce, the two Koreas are technically still at war. Pyongyang has been conducting nuclear and missile tests, and aiming to develop an intercontinental missile capable of hitting the US mainland.


Japanese gear up in face of danger, but many remain stoic

Half an hour after North Korea launched a ballistic missile, albeit unsuccessfully, last Saturday, trains running 1,200km away in Tokyo's extensive underground metro network ground to a halt.

Flak from Japanese reluctant to let wayward North Korea disrupt everyday life came fast and furious.

Notwithstanding their protests, there has been a surge of interest in how to guard against ballistic missile and nuclear attacks.


Japan has drawn up detailed civil defence guidelines on its Cabinet Secretariat Civil Protection portal on what people should do in the event of an attack. The website's page views jumped exponentially from 450,000 in March to about three million last month.

Companies specialising in nuclear bunkers and air purifiers that can remove radioactive and chemical substances say they are receiving more inquiries about products.