Update on the current
tensions between North and South Korea and the potential impact on CIEE
programs in Seoul for spring, summer, and fall 2013.
recent weeks, there has been extensive media coverage of the increased
anti-South Korea and anti-U.S. rhetoric by North Korea. CIEE staff is in
contact with various security providers, monitoring security updates as well as
western and Korean media on a daily basis to better understand the current
situation. Feedback from the U.S. Embassy, local officials and experts in
Seoul, as well as CIEE's global security provider, suggests that the latest
round of threats from North Korea are part of a normal pattern that has existed
since North and South Korea signed the armistice agreement in 1953 to end
hostilities during the Korean War. Daily life in Seoul continues as normal, and
CIEE’s spring 2013 program in Seoul has progressed according to its original
Resident Director Suzanne Crowder Han has been in regular contact with students and
recently crafted the following information to help provide additional context
to the current situation:
The extensive U.S. media coverage of the recent
inflammatory statements and threats made by the North Korean government and
media may have caused you to question the safety and security of South Korea.
However, as I have lived in Korea for more than 30 years, I can say that such
rhetoric is nothing new. North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric
and threats and its recent announcements follow a familiar pattern.
Every year when the U.S. and South Korea conduct
pre-announced annual joint military drills, as they are doing now, North Korea
makes threats and puts its military on high alert to show its military might.
This year, just after the start of the two-month-long joint U.S.-South Korea
military exercises, the U.N. Security Council announced
new stricter sanctions against North Korea in regard to its earlier rocket
launch in December and testing of an underground nuclear device in February,
adding to the young North Korean leader’s need to show his power and thereby
bolster his domestic image among the North Korean people and military. The
recent statements and associated propaganda are viewed as an attempt to bolster
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s domestic standing and to put pressure on
South Korea’s new president Park Geun-hye. Moreover, North Korea frequently
escalates tensions and provocations on the Korean peninsula to press its opponents
into talks and obtain aid (primarily food for its starving people) in return
for de-escalation in tension.
There is the possibility of localized
security incidents along the shared land and maritime border. However, it
should be noted that this threat has existed since 1953, when an armistice
agreement ended hostilities during the Korean War. An increase in the frequency
of anti-U.S. and anti-South Korea statements by the North Korean government as
well as demonstrations in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, should be expected
in the coming weeks as the joint U.S.-South Korea military drills continue and
April 15 is the birthday of Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea. And, South
Korea can be expected to increase its security measures and military drills and
announcements, which are commonplace, in response to the North Korean threats.
South Koreans are going about life as
usual; office workers are going to work, students to school and farmers are
getting the fields ready for spring planting. For them, the threats are a
As was explained to our students during orientation and also by the Embassy staff
during our U.S. Embassy briefing,
were there to be an emergency situation, manmade or natural, we would follow
the instructions of the U.S. Embassy, military, and the Korean government.
- Suzanne Crowder Han,
security experts are monitoring the situation very closely, the general belief
is that the actual risk to people in South Korea remains very low. CIEE staff
will continue to provide current students with updated information and, if
necessary, adjust program activities to help minimize potential risk. CIEE reviews
and updates its emergency contingency plans annually and monitors information
from government and private security resources daily in order to make informed
decisions about current and future programs. At this stage, CIEE is moving
forward with regular plans for the summer and fall 2013 programs in Seoul.
will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates.