#PrayForKorea: Why South Korea really does not need your prayers
In response to escalating tensions between North and South Korea, some twitter users managed to trend the hashtag #PrayForKorea earlier today. Keener observers may have already noted that tensions between the two Koreas regularly ramp up like this rarely amounting to much more than some grandstanding military exercises and, on the worst occasions, a few soldier deaths (these are of course is nothing to brush off but it’s hardly World War 3) but nonetheless many were concerned enough to send their prayers in the form of tweets.
It looked something like this:
#PrayForKorea Not because kpop originated there or because your biases are in the army but because millions of lives are in danger.
— 최한솔♥장택운 (@TheHeadFairyLeo) August 21, 2015
— Horse #PrayForKorea (@JHS0219) August 21, 2015
The response in Korea however has been a little less… sincere.
“Help me win the lottery”
액티브엑스랑 공인인증서 없어지게 해주세요. #PrayForKorea
— Dana (@criancafirme) August 21, 2015
“Please make Active X and verification certificates disappear”
(These are protocols that make the Korean internet notoriously difficult to navigate.)
“I must see them as a whole ASAP”
— 서코가는 가비 (@lsoduqo821) August 21, 2015
“If there’s a war, I can’t keep up my geekery.”
Some got a little political with it:
“Please send [former president] Lee Myung-bak to jail”
“Send Park Geun-hye with him too… please…”
But after a while, a pattern began to emerge:
치킨이 더 싸지도록 기도해주세요… #PrayForKorea
— Roung ll Pentaholic (@ptx_roung) August 21, 2015
“Please pray for fried chicken to become cheaper…”
“Chicken is delicious..”
— 멍두청둥오리 (@doudonges) August 21, 2015
Korean Twitter users then started to reach out to users of the hashtag to tell them they’re fine, like super fine, seriously:
If you’re not used to Inter-Korean relations and the hysteria of North Korean rhetoric, it’s understandable that it can seem dramatic and even perhaps a little scary but it’s helpful to realise why Koreans are not bothered by this at all. When Kim Jong-un talks about being in a “quasi-state of war”, it’s important to remember that the Korean War ended in an armistice (i.e. an agreement not to shoot each other anymore) and not a peace treaty. This means that the Koreas have been in a “quasi-state of war” in one way or another for over sixty years – this rhetoric is virtually meaningless especially when you consider that this is how North Korean state media describes everything. The South Korean government and military is regularly described as “war maniac puppets” under “yankee bastard” US control which will be destroyed in a “sea of fire” sometime next week.
When one or both of the Koreas ratchets up the tensions between the two countries, it’s usually in order to play to their home audiences. Kim Jong-un is believed by many experts to be in a vulnerable place as Yonsei Professor John Delury told the Diplomat: “there are legitimate questions about how well he controls all the levers, especially given the chronic reshuffling in the North Korean military and party hierarchy since he assumed power.” This may account for the recent landmine attack in South Korea which injured two soldiers.
Park Geun-hye also seems to be keen to use North-South relations to bolster her reputation as a strong president who won’t back down using several times more power to hit back at the North every time Kim Jong-un sends an attack her way.
But when it comes down to it, neither side wants a war. It would almost certainly end worst for North Korea who could not compete against the firepower of South Korea, the US and possibly also Japan but the South will also not want all the potential human and financial costs of an all-out war.
It’s for this reason that Koreans do not care. When this all last flared up in 2013, James Pearson, who is now Reuters’ Korea correspondent, told us: “Until there is any actual sign of conflict or any actual provocative act, South Koreans will just go on as normal and even if there is, they are probably still going to go on as normal.” This remains as true now as it was then.
So hold your #prayers and give them to someone who really needs them. Why not give your support to our friends over at the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea who provide help and support to North Korean defectors and campaign for human rights for North Koreans? That could actually make a difference.