By TIM HORAN
North Korea on Tuesday urged all foreign companies and tourists in South Korea to evacuate, saying the two countries are on the verge of nuclear war.
However, a former Abilene teacher living in Seoul said the mood there is “calm.”
“The government of South Korea is extremely calm considering the circumstances,” Rogers said in an interview with the Reflector-Chronicle. “The people of South Korea have lived this way for over 50 years so they are not taking any of North Korea’s threats seriously. Life in Seoul is continuing on completely normally despite the threats from the North.”
According to the Associated Press, the new threat appeared to be an attempt to keep the region on tenterhooks over its intentions.
Analysts see a direct attack on Seoul as extremely unlikely and there are no overt signs that North Korea’s 1.2 million-man army is readying for war, let alone a nuclear one. South Korea’s military has reported missile movements on North Korea's east coast but nothing is pointed toward South Korea.
North Korea’s earlier warning that it won’t be able to guarantee the safety of foreign diplomats after April 10 has raised fears that it will conduct a missile or nuclear test on Wednesday, resulting in U.S. retaliation.
Rogers said that despite threats she feels “safe”.
“Because the general population is so unfazed by the situation with North Korea, I don’t feel threatened at all,” she said. “From what I hear, there is much more media coverage about the situation in the U.S. than there is here in South Korea.
“I’m aware of what is happening because of CNN, not because of South Korean media sources,” she added.
Rogers, who taught six years at McKinley Elementary School in Abilene from 2006 to 2012 is now teaching second grade at Seoul International School, which is located in a southern suburb of Seoul called Seongnam. She started teaching in South Korea last fall.
“The school that I teach at has an emergency plan in place, so if something were to actually happen, I feel sure that I will be able to leave the country without difficulty,” Rogers said.
She lives in an apartment complex with other staff members from Seoul International, which is only a five-minute walk from school.
“Teaching in Korea has certainly been an interesting experience,” she said. “I love my students and I will have some wonderful memories of Korea, but I am excited to return to teaching in Kansas.”
Next year Rogers will be teaching third grade in Derby where she will work with another Abilene connection. Principal Kelly Bielefield, also an Abilene native and Abilene High School graduate.
The Associated Press reported the United States and South Korea have raised their defense postures and so has Japan, which deployed PAC-3 missile interceptors in key locations around Tokyo on Tuesday as a precaution against possible North Korean ballistic missile tests.
“The situation on the Korean Peninsula is inching close to a thermonuclear war due to the evermore undisguised hostile actions of the United States and the South Korean puppet warmongers and their moves for a war against” the North, said a statement by the North Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, an organization that deals with regional matters.
The statement is similar to past threats that analysts call an attempt to raise anxiety in foreign capitals. Observers say a torrent of North Korean prophecies of doom and efforts to raise war hysteria are partly to boost the image of young and relatively untested leader Kim Jong Un at home, and to show him as a decisive military leader.
Another reason could be to use threats of war to win Pyongyang-friendly policy changes in Seoul and Washington. Last week, North Korea told foreign diplomats in Pyongyang that it will not be able to guarantee their safety as of Wednesday. It is not clear what the significance of that date is.
Tourists continued to arrive in Pyongyang despite the war hysteria.
Mark Fahey of Sydney, Australia, said he was not concerned about a possible war.
“I knew that when I arrived here it would probably be very different to the way it was being reported in the media,” he told The Associated Press at Pyongyang airport. He said his family trusts him to make the right judgment but “my colleagues at work think I am crazy.”
Chu Kang Jin, a Pyongyang resident, said everything is calm in the city.
“Everyone, including me, is determined to turn out as one to fight for national reunification ... if the enemies spark a war,” he said, in a typically nationalist rhetoric that most North Koreans use while speaking to the media.
In Seoul, Presidential spokeswoman Kim Haing told reporters that the North Korean warning amounted to “psychological warfare.”
“We know that foreigners residing in South Korea as well as our nationals are unfazed,” she said.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye who has sought to re-engage North Korea with dialogue and aid since taking office in February, expressed exasperation Tuesday with what she called the “endless vicious cycle” of Seoul answering Pyongyang’s hostile behavior with compromise, only to get more hostility.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday described the tensions as “very dangerous” and said that any small incident caused by miscalculation may “create an uncontrollable situation.”
Also Tuesday, North Korea said it was suspending work at the Kaesong industrial park near its border, which combines South Korean technology and know-how with North Korea’s cheap labor. North Korea pulled out more than 50,000 workers from the complex, the only remaining product of economic cooperation between the two countries that started about a decade ago when relations were much warmer.
Other projects from previous eras of cooperation such as reunions of families separated by war and tours to a scenic North Korean mountain stopped in recent years.