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South Korea's 'Indifference' Toward North Korea Is Really Complicated

South Korea's complicated relationship with its northern "brother" affects the way citizens respond to military threats.
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South Korea's 'Indifference' Toward North Korea Is Really Complicated

North Korea's recent military actions and threats have prompted rising tensions and fears around the world.

But in South Korea — a country in direct range of North Korean artillery — citizens have been mostly unfazed.

South Korea's government has been criticized for a lack of "urgency" in its response. And South Koreans are still flocking to the popular tourist destination of Guam — in spite of North Korea's threats to the island. 

Just weeks later, in response to a North Korean missile launched over Japan, one Seoul resident told The Huffington Post, "Because Kim Jong-un keeps launching missiles, I just think: 'Oh, there goes another one.'"

This could be because South Korea has endured years of threats from North Korea, and ... they just got used to it. Young citizens in particular feel secure in South Korea, so many choose not to concern themselves with the threats.

Experts say the nonchalance could also stem from the economic prosperity of the country. By 2020, the country is expected to surpass the gross domestic product of France — which would make it one of the wealthiest countries in the world

Despite all this, it might be too easy to say South Koreans are ignoring the issue out of just indifference.

Calling the relationship between the two countries "complex" would be an understatement. A South Korean journalist wrote in The Guardian that indifference "coexists with a deeply personal attachment that many South Koreans — even the young — still harbor to North Korea."

Despite the military threat of North Korea, and the history surrounding the Korean War, the narrative that the two countries are "brothers" is still prevalent. In fact, most South Koreans reportedly still want unification. 

But it's also worth noting that South Korean society still stigmatizes sympathy for North Korea's communist ideology. Because of that, it can be difficult to access reliable information on North Korea.

All of these variables affect and inform the way South Korea regards North Korean aggression. If the threats continue to mount, it's difficult to determine how South Korea will respond.