SEOUL, South Korea — The high-stakes conflict between North Korea and the rest of the world at least appears to be getting worse. On Tuesday, North Korea fired a ballistic missile thought to be capable of reaching Alaska.
United States President Donald Trump responded with an eerie warning that alluded to military action, stating that he’s considering “some pretty severe things” when it comes to dealing with the DPRK regime and its leader, Kim Jong Un. The top U.S. military commander in the region also warned North Korea that the U.S. and South Korea are ready for war.
But in Seoul — home to nearly 20% of the total South Korean population and just 35 miles from the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two countries — everything seems to carry on as usual. Mic asked residents if they’re worried about war with North Korea, Trump or reunification of the two countries.
Here’s what they had to say:
Im So-jeong, 25, student at Korea University, Hongdae, Seoul
Mic: What do you think about U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about dealing with North Korea?
Im So-jeong: The way that Trump strategizes about North Korea is really concerning to me. I really worry about his personality, to be honest.
I don’t think that Trump is fit to be anything, but seeing as he’s new, maybe we should give him a little more time to see if he’s capable of changing. Moon Jae-in and Trump recently met, and you can just tell that Moon Jae-in is more educated. I’m worried about Trump being aggressive and antagonistic in general. If South and North Korea are going to have a war, it’s going to be all because of Trump.
“If South and North Korea are going to have a war, it’s going to be all because of Trump.”
Choi Da-song (left), 25, tattoo artist, and Hahm Sung-heul (right), 31, singer, Sinchon, Seoul
Are you worried about the possibility of a war?
Hahm Sung-heul: Honestly, I don’t think the war is going to happen — not at all. I think the majority of Koreans who say they’re worried about [war] are just saying that.
Choi Da-song: I’m just focusing on making a living and getting by day by day, so I don’t really pay attention or care about the war. I don’t watch the news because, if I do, I am going to worry about it.
“I don’t watch the news because, if I do, I am going to worry about it.”
Jung Jin-ho, 27, clothing store sales representative, Sinchon, Seoul
Are you worried about the possibility of a war?
I think that a war can happen at any time. We’ve already been through the Korean War once — North Korea attacked us and they’re still trying. I really think it could come at any moment. We’re living in a cease-fire situation, so, theoretically, we are still at war.
The people who have been through the military — men like me — they think the war can happen and they worry about it, but regular civilians don’t have these concerns.
“I really think [war] could come at any moment.”
Min Byung-ho, 76, convenience store kiosk worker, City Hall, Seoul
Are you worried about war with North Korea?
Trump and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, can talk to each other, make a plan together and probably bomb the shit out of North Korea and make a disaster — that’s possible. Yes, many Koreans are worried about war. A lot, actually. I think that the war will inevitably happen.
“Trump and Xi Jinping can talk to each other, make a plan together and probably bomb the shit out of North Korea.”
Baek Jang-ji, 32, guesthouse owner, Hongdae, Seoul
What do you think of Donald Trump?
I wish he would just mind his own business and go away. Trump really doesn’t qualify for president. He doesn’t even have the basic qualifications to be a leader. Trump is basically a rich man interested in bragging about his wealth, and he doesn’t have any clue what regular people’s lives are like, and I don’t think he even cares to know.
“Trump is basically a rich man interested in bragging about his wealth, and he doesn’t have any clue what regular people’s lives are like.”
Baek So-yeon, 24, student at Korea University, Hongdae, Seoul
Are you worried about Trump’s comments about possible military action with North Korea?
I think, telling by Trump’s words and his personality, he really wants to attack North Korea. But because of the United States’ relationship with China and other countries, he can’t do anything yet — that’s the only thing I think is keeping the war from happening. But then again, I’m not worried about war because of all the other countries involved.
“Because of the United States’ relationship with China and other countries, Trump can’t do anything yet.”
Ji Jung-hae, 49, pork meat vendor, Namdaemun Market, Seoul
Are you worried about a war with North Korea?
No, I’m not worried the least bit about a war. We have a lot of problems with our politics and our economy, but I have faith that our politicians and economists will take care of it all.
I feel bad that Korea is divided, but we can’t do anything about it anyway. It’s for the politicians to worry about. If politicians somehow reunite this country peacefully like Germany did, that’s their call, not mine. I believe the government will somehow reunite us peacefully. America wants peace over the world, so I trust America to take care of my country.
“America wants peace over the world, so I trust America to take care of my country.”
Cha Chi-un, 21, office building worker, Hongdae, Seoul
What do you think about U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about North Korea?
In Korea, more people dislike Trump than like him. The general Korean population thinks that he’s so uneducated and has no specific political agenda or anything that he really believes in. The way he talks and the way he makes racial comments against Asian or black people in the U.S., I don’t like it. He just overreacts.
Right now, we don’t need a war. It shouldn’t happen. But I also understand all of the threats that the North is making to the international community with their missile tests, so I kind of understand Trump’s situation and why someone might want to initiate an attack. But seeing as we’re so close to North Korea, we are the ones who will suffer the casualties. Trump has to consider that. The president of the United States needs to be concerned about other countries’ safety, too.
“The president of the United States needs to be concerned about other countries’ safety, too.”