South Koreans remain calm over nuke test

By CHO CHUNG-UN | The Korea Herald/Asia News Network | Published: February 13, 2013

SEOUL -- Most South Koreans kept calm as news of North Korea's nuclear test spread throughout the country during the lunch hour on Tuesday.

TV broadcasters started to report at 12:13 p.m. that an artificial earthquake took place in North Korea at 11:58 a.m. Other media outlets began relaying urgent messages via online and mobile channels about how the government or other allies were responding to the situation. People with worry-stricken faces gathered around TVs in public areas to follow the reports. But many appeared calm, as if they were watching something that happened several times before.

"People in other countries must wonder how Koreans carry on with their lives despite constant military threats by North Korea. But I don't feel insecure because it happens all the time," said Kim So-youn, a publicist for an IT firm in Seoul.

"I don't feel nervous at all. It doesn't seem as if there will be an immediate war. But I am concerned of possible radiation leaks after the nuclear test," said a 32-year-old mother surnamed Oh, carrying her 1-year-old son on her back.

Civic groups, however, expressed concern over the North's nuke test and urged the Seoul government to take stronger measures against its communist neighbor.

"North Korea should be held responsible for creating extreme tension in Northeast Asia," said Kim Sam-soo, a member of the Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice.

Peoples' Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, another representative civic group in Seoul, also warned that North Korea's security policy relying highly on nuclear weapon would result in more nuclear threats.

"North Korea should abandon its idea that a nuclear deterrent would protect its regime," said Lee Tae-ho, secretary general of the PSPD.

Both the ruling Saenuri and opposition Democratic United Party strongly criticized the North saying the communist regime must pay the price for causing instability in the Asia-Pacific region.

The two parties each convened emergency meetings later in the afternoon and said they will work closely to better deal with the current situation.

Previously, the two leaders of the ruling and opposition parties met President-elect Park Geun-hye in their first emergency trilateral meeting on Thursday, to urge North Korea to immediately halt its nuclear test plan.

"The nuclear test is a clear act of provocation. The Saenuri Party strongly condemns (North Korea for conducting the nuclear test). (We will) take parliamentary action against the North and will urge the South Korean government and their allies to take collective action to make the North pay the price," said Saenuri spokesman Lee Sang-il.

The opposition also slammed North Korea but urged President-elect Park to take an "effective measure" and open a communication channel for a peace on Korean Peninsula.

"DUP strongly condemns the North's nuke test. There is nothing that the North can get from it," said DUP spokesman Chung Sung-ho.

"North Korea deserves all the sanctions imposed by the international community. But Park needs to take effective measures to deal with (North Korea's provocation), by sending her envoy to (Pyongyang) or holding a South-North summit."

Other Seoul citizens expressed mixed views with some urging the incoming government to take stronger measures than before while others say that they are concerned by the new administration making a fuss about the nuke test in a move to increase citizens' awareness of national security.

"I hope that the South Korean government will come up with stronger measures to stop further provocations by the North and let them suffer from more sanctions imposed by the international community," a Seoul resident said.

"I understand this is a serious issue, but I am worried about the new government talking about North Korean threats all the time and about why an arms buildup is necessary. The whole thing would throw people's lives into fear," said an office worker surnamed Cho in Seoul.


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