In his third year of his Communication & Media bachelor, Tom Hollestelle took the opportunity of spending six months studying abroad. And because mega cities in Asia have always fascinated him, he opted for Yonsei University in Seoul, the South Korean capital. Tom interrogated teachers and students at Yonsei University about their feelings concerning the tension between North and South Korea: “At Yonsei University, the tension between our neighbour and the US is not the talk of the day”, he notices. “Everybody just seems to be keeping calm and moving on. The South Koreans in particular don’t seem to be concerned by the increased tension.”

Dongsook Kim, Korean Professor at Yonsei University

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Dongsook Kim, Korean Professor at Yonsei University Image credit: Tom Hollestelle

I’m not afraid, nor have I panicked about this situation,” says Dongsook, Professor at Yonsei University. “We have no reason to worry. Everyone in Seoul knows that Kim Jong Un is only issuing threats with powerful words and testing hydrogen bombs, for example, to show the world how dangerous his country can be. We’ve lived under such threats for so many years that we no longer let it influence our daily lives. The South Korean government recently pumped a lot of extra money into its army because of the current situation. We’ll have to wait for it to settle down and hope that Trump can hold his horses before we can even think of negotiating. Economically speaking, it would be better if we could calm things down, so that money can be invested in education instead.”

Erick Rosas Lopez, Mexican, student at Yonsei University

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Erick Rosas Lopez, Mexican student at Yonsei University Image credit: Tom Hollestelle

“Whenever I get to talk to Korean students, they tell me that they’re not afraid. They’re all used to the threats from North Korea and have grown up experiencing all the missile tests. International students are definitely more worried and some of their parents have even asked them to come home. Personally, I’m more worried about Donald Trump. He’s extremely impulsive and not very good at his job, which might result in him making a mistake which could trigger an attack, if not more. If things become very serious, I’ll follow the instructions of the Mexican embassy, as they are responsible for me in Seoul.”

Hyosung Suh, Korean student at Yonsei University

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Hyosung Suh, Korean student at Yonsei University Image credit: Tom Hollestelle

Hyosung is worried about the situation, as he realises that the periods between each missile launch are getting shorter, the latest two being just a few days apart. Despite being worried, he’s also confident that nothing will happen. “We’ve been living with these threats for so long that we almost seem to ignore them, but we mustn’t underestimate North Korea and its possibilities. We’ve become immune to Trump’s stupidity and are no longer surprised when he threatens North Korea. People live their everyday lives as if nothing is going on, but North Korea is being mentioned on TV a lot recently. There’s always the chance that something will happen and that’s worrying. I’ve learnt to live with the fact that if something does happen, I’m screwed, because it would be impossible to evacuate the entire population of Seoul within days.”

Holly Johnson, British, student at Yonsei University

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Holly Johnson, British student at Yonsei University Image credit: Tom Hollestelle

“Many people hear the word ‘Korea’ and they jump straight to ‘North’. I did my research as soon as I knew I was coming here and pretty much everyone, especially the expats in Korea, said that the atmosphere hadn’t changed and that people have just learnt to live with it. The majority of people tend to take the words of Trump and Kim Jong Un with a pinch of salt and there doesn’t seem to be any panic buying of food and supplies. Life here in Seoul just goes on as normal.”

Tom reports what it’s like to be in the centre of worldwide attention.”The threats of Trump and Kim Jong Un have headlined every newspaper in Seoul in recent weeks. Certain TV channels show nothing else but the North Korean missile launches and the test operations of the South Korean and US military. As most students have mentioned, the South Koreans don’t seem to be worried, purely due to the fact that they’ve lived under such circumstances for years.”

At Yonsei University, exchange students have been told to get in touch with their own embassy and stay in close contact with the International Office on campus as well as their home university. Every time there’s a new threat or missile launch, people are scared for a day or two, but then they carry on with their lives as if they’re not in any danger whatsoever. Seoul is definitely a very interesting place to be right now.”