Life for families, plans for South Korean Songdo campus continue without interruption
Despite the stream of aggressive threats from North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, life at Mason goes on as normal and plans concerning Mason’s South Korea satellite campus continue.
The Office of Global and International Strategies announced in statement on April 18 that although they are aware of the threats from North Korea, no advisory has been announced warning against travel to South Korea.
“Furthermore, none of Mason’s partner institutions in South Korea have advised their international students to leave South Korea,” the announcement stated.
According to Anne Schiller, director of the Office of Global and International Strategies, planning continues as usual.
“Student exchange programs in South Korea have not been affected by the threats, either, which are regularly issued by North Korea in moments of presidential transition in South Korea like this one,” Schiller wrote in an email.
Some members of the Korean Student Association are not worried about the threats either, explaining that these threats happen often and are not taken seriously.
“Their threats have been non-stop throughout their history, since the end of the Korean war,” said Basil Ok, an undeclared sophomore and member of the Korean Student Association.
Since the United Nation’s condemnation of North Korea’s nuclear test and the sanctions set forth by the U.N. Security Council, Kim Jong-un has been issuing threats of nuclear destruction towards the United States. In early March, the country announced that it would no longer follow the 1953 armistice which ended the Korean War.
It is probably not appropriate to issue a warning because there is no immediate threat but it is prudent to remain alert and be willing to shift to a warning once they see that North Korea is moving missiles closer into position
Jack Goldstone, Director of the Center form Global Policy
Recently, the country has announced that foreigners in South Korea are not safe because of a possible nuclear war, and demanded on April 18 that military drills between the United States and South Korea must stop before negotiation talks will resume.
Despite North Korea’s announcement on April 16 that South Korea would not be warned before a nuclear attack, the Office of Global and International Strategies stressed in their announcement the Depart of State’s assertion that there are no threats to U.S. citizens in the Republic of Korea.
“In that regard we would like to note that the U.S….. Department of State has not issued any travel advisory against travel to South Korea,” the Office of Global and International Strategies stated.
This announcement comes amidst Mason’s continuing development of a campus in Songdo, South Korea. “If the situation changes and the U.S. Department of State issues a travel advisory or travel warning for South Korea, the Office of Global and International Strategies will update the Mason community immediately,” the announcement stated. Director of the Center for Global Policy, Jack Goldstone, who is also the Hazel Professor of Public Policy, said that close attention should be given to the State Department’s announcements.
“It is probably not appropriate to issue a warning because there is no immediate threat, but it is prudent to remain alert and be willing to shift to a warning once they see that North Korea is moving missiles closer into position,” Goldstone said.
According to Goldstone, the situation in North Korea will be tense especially for a couple more weeks, as the holiday period surrounding the celebration of the birthday of Kim Il Sung continues.
“The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, has been threatening to do something dramatic around the time of this holiday. So it may be a bluff, and I hope it is, but we can’t be sure of that until a little more time passes,” Goldstone said.
Junior Anna Chun, a KSA member who has family in South Korea, is not worried about the threats.
“From the last time I talked to them, they weren’t concerned about the threats from North Korea,” Chun stated in an email.
Ok, who also has family in South Korea, is not worried about the North Korean threats.
“I’m not at all nervous about my family. If they do attack, we have the U.S. on our side. Who would want to aggravate the U.S.? Who would want to get into war with them?” Ok said.
Goldstone is supportive of Mason’s campus in South Korea.
“Korea is one of the world’s most dynamic economies and it’s very good for Mason to have a presence there,” Goldstone said. “I think that it is the right thing to do and I hope the threat passes quickly.”
Ok thinks that Mason should examine all possibilities of the issue.
“Never say never. If you want to be totally safe, maybe we shouldn’t. You never know how people’s minds work, maybe they would follow through,” Ok said.
Still, both students stress that South Koreans are used to these threats.
“Why the South Koreans are not scared is because during the Korean War, we were unprepared,” Ok said. “We didn’t have enough weapons. They suddenly came and pushed us down all the way to the bottom of the Peninsula. Now, ever since the end of that Korean War, we are ready. We have a strong military and every year we have a lot of recruits and everybody is well trained. We are prepared. We see one little thing coming out of North Korea, they are done.”
According to Goldstone, the current threats are just starting to look more like the previous episodes of threats which were not acted upon.
“I think people were more frightened because the new leader is less secure and less skilled than his father and grandfather, and there was fear that he might overreach, make a mistake, but it seems the last few days that he has not been making things worse, and that is a good sign,” Goldstone said.
Ok said that even if North Korea would follow through with the threats, he and his family are not worried.
“I wouldn’t stay too worried about it, I don’t think they would totally wipe out South Korea- I don’t think they have the power to do it,” Ok said.
Although tension is high, the United States or South Korea has yet to be attacked.
“This is a situation that has been one of high tension for a long time and now great tension for several weeks, but nothing has happened, so I find that encouraging,” Ok said.