You may have seen this headline last night on your televisions news, your social media timelines or maybe just heard people mention it. Some saw it as another empty threat but are these threats more of a psychological attack on tourists, foreign relations and South Korea’s growing economy? More info after the jump.
(AFP Photo/KCNA via KNS)
SEOUL — North Korea warned on Tuesday that foreigners in South Korea should look for shelter or consider evacuating because the Korean Peninsula was on the brink of nuclear war. But the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, said she remained determined not to succumb to the North’s efforts to escalate tensions to extract concessions from the South.
The North’s warning followed a similar advisory last week in which it told foreign embassies in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to devise evacuation plans.
“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,” the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, a North Korean state agency, said in a statement on Tuesday. “It does not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim to the war.”
In South Korea, where people have long grown used to a North Korean bluster or learned to shut themselves off from a situation out of their control, there were few if any signs of anxiety after the warning. The American Embassy in Seoul said that the State Department’s travel notice on South Korea remained unchanged on Tuesday.
“Despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in the Republic of Korea,” said the travel message, which was last updated on Friday, using the official name of South Korea. “The embassy has not changed its security posture, and we have not recommended that U.S. citizens who reside in, or plan to visit, the Republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time.”
The Korea Tourism Organization said the latest torrent of North Korean threats has so far had little effect on tourism, with the number of Chinese tourists doubling during a vacation week last week, said Lee Kwang-soo, a spokesman. Still, it was taking precautionary measures reaching out to foreign tourist agencies to inform them that it was safe to visit South Korea, he said.
“This is not the first time North Korea acts like this,” said Song Hyun-seok, an official at the South Korean office of the Philippine Department of Tourism. Gloria Lee, a spokeswoman at Lotte Hotel, one of South Korea’s biggest hotel chains, reported a 30 percent drop in Japanese guests this year but assigned the problem not to North Korea but to the weakening Japanese yen and fraying political ties between South Korea and Japan.
But DMZ Tour Corporation, a company that specializes in taking tourists to the heavily militarized border with North Korea to experience one of the world’s last reminders of cold-war tensions, has seen its business shrink in recent weeks.
“We have foreign tourists calling us to ask whether it’s safe to go to the border,” said Yoo Jae-sung, a company official who declined to reveal how many tourists his company lost to the tensions. “Yesterday, a group of Australian tourists had a vote among themselves after agreeing that if any one of them was afraid to go to the border, they would cancel the trip. They went.”
South Korean officials and analysts said North Korea was extremely unlikely to start a war. Rather, they said, its warning was psychological warfare aimed at heightening a sense of crisis to rattle investors’ confidence in the South’s globalized economy and force…[Read Full Article at NY Times]