SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Nearly two decades ago, South Koreans cleared store shelves after a North Korean threat to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire" raised war panic. On Saturday, South Koreans expressed some fear but mostly apathy and restraint after a week of warlike rhetoric from the North, including another "sea of fire" vow.
Many South Koreans have grown up with a steady drumbeat of over-the-top threats from the North. So while they are aware of soaring tensions as North Korea reacts with anger to major U.S.-South Korean military drills that start Monday and a new round of U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang's recent third nuclear test, there's skepticism that anything serious will happen.
In downtown Seoul, people took photos and laughed as they walked below a giant electronic screen that flashed headlines about North Korea's war threats.
"The odds of dying from a North Korean bomb are probably smaller than being killed in a car accident. I'll spend my time doing better things than worrying about war," said Oh Jin-young, a South Korean office worker out for a walk with his son. "North Korea knows that war will be like committing suicide."
There is some fear, however.
South Koreans are well known for their ability to shake off North Korean threats. But the last several years have seen a rise of bloodshed. The deadly sinking of a South Korean warship — which Pyongyang denies torpedoing, despite a Seoul-led international investigation that found the North at fault — and an artillery attack on a front-line South Korean island in 2010 that killed four people have raised the specter of war among some South Koreans.
This is a good article in terms of the reaction of ordinary Koreans. Most Koreans I know don't worry about North Korea much. I have to agree that getting killed in a car accident in South Korea is more likely than getting killed by an attack by North Korea (which doesn't say much for how Koreans drive).