I know how scary things must sound right now.

– fox news

– cnn

– huffington post

But you HAVE to read PAST the headlines.  They are meant to hook you in, but I feel like most people read that, maybe read one article, and they consider themselves an expert on what is going on here on the Korean peninsula.

Well, if your background is just the Media, then you are greatly mistaken.  Yeah, things are tense now.  Hearing about gunshots and artillery fire isn’t something we’re used to as Americans.  Besides Pearl Harbor and 9/11, there’s not much in recent history for us to relate to.  But what’s happening here in Korea is nothing like either of those tragedies.  Gunshots and artillery fire, fighting and conflict – America is isolated from these very real, daily realities that many people in the world face.  Americans think gunshots equals an invitation to war, but it’s not the same everywhere else in the world.

Wikipedia has a list of ongoing military conflicts – I think you’d be surprised to know that the war on drugs in Mexico has resulted in more than 28,000 deaths since 2006, but that Korea isn’t even mentioned among the smaller conflicts.  Foreign Policy Magazine online has an article called Planet War, which lists 33 ongoing conflicts around the world.  Korea is on the list, but not surprisingly (for those who know much), it doesn’t have any statistics on casualties like most of the others on the list (because the casualties, both military and civilian, are negligible) – it just talks about how there is tension between the two countries who have never signed a peace agreement since the end of the Korean War.

There are millions of ways at looking at what’s going on, and trying to prove that nothing will happen here, but I can’t really do that.  I can’t be sure that something won’t escalate, or that there won’t be other conflicts or battles or skirmishes here.  Because that would be a lie.  A South Korean battleship was sunk in March by North Korea – that happened before we came to Korea, and we still came.  Last month there were some shots fired at the DMZ, but nobody freaked out.  This thing that happened this week, I think it’s getting as much attention because unfortunately two civilians were killed.  I don’t think that NK meant for that to happen – but they’re too proud to apologize.  And SK can’t let civilians get hurt – it has to respond (at least in writing and words) aggressively.  But other than that, it’s not all that different than the normal issues the two countries face all the time.

But let me be clear.  THERE WERE NO BOMBINGS IN KOREA.  I don’t know where people are getting that from – you saw fire on TV?  Good for you, but is that the only way fire can start?  Bombs?  No.  You are seeing “Korea” in more of your headlines than usual, right?  And North Korea is saying we’re on the “brink of war,” so it must be true?  Because since when have we taken NK’s state-run propaganda machine at its word?  They’re constantly spewing out crazy, insane, violent threats about the U.S. and South Korea and anyone who isn’t them.  Their head of state is legitimately crazy.  Not the people – the poor people of North Korea are some of the worst victims of human rights.  But that’s a different topic.

Sometimes North Korea is quiet and sometimes it gets boisterous.  As my Moon: Living Abroad in South Korea book puts it:

Predicting the moves of a country as seemingly irrational as North Korea is a job for experts and analysits, and even they regularly get it wrong.  Nonetheless, pretty much everyone is in agreement that the North’s posturing is more bark than bite, calculated at squeezing concessions out of its negotiating partners.  The sad fact is that stripped of all credibility, genuine allies, or diplomatic clout, periodic tantrums are about the only tactic the North has left at its disposal…

…The North has frequently demonstrated a healthy pragmatic streak, and many believe its ruling regime would be highly unlikely to hasten its own demise by pitting its aging army against superior opposing forces…

…take your cue from the locals, whom you’ll soon notice rarely get worked up about acts by their northern neighbor that have the rest of the world wringing its hands.

And that’s precisely it.  Nobody here is freaking out, but Americans are.  I don’t know how many times my fellow expats have told that their family wants them to come home now.  I’m sorry, did they not realize this was the reality of the situation to begin with?  Nothing here has changed.  Are South Koreans ambivalent or ignorant or robots?  No – but this is the world they’ve always known.  One where things are perfectly fine and wonderful, where life is sweet and fun and exciting, where they work hard and play hard, and besides the fact that everything is in Korean, it’s not really much different than things in the U.S. -but occasionally the country next door – where lots of their own relatives are trapped and much of their own history is locked away – flexes its tiny muscles, puffs up its chest, shouts some threats, and throws a snowball with rocks in it at their head.  It hurts, it stings, it pisses them off, and sometimes someone dies.  And when America hears about it, they freak.  We’re not used to that, but this isn’t America, so don’t try to compare.

I’m telling you now, under the very possible threat that I’ll eat my own words, that we are fine.  We are safe.  Will we be tomorrow?  Who knows.  But don’t tell me to come home when your ignorance on the subject is the only reason you’re asking me to come home in the first place.  I love my life here, and I don’t feel scared or threatened or worried.  I have a great job, one that I love getting up for in the morning.  I have a nice apartment, one that I don’t have to pay rent on.  I am able to send a lot of money home each month to pay off my school loans – school loans that were barely chipped away at for the last two years of living in the States with a job that most anyone would say I was lucky to have.  My life is better here than it was in the U.S., and I’m happier here than I have been since childhood.  Am I defensive about this country and my desire to stay here?  Yes.  For two good reasons.  I’m happy here and as far as those of us on this side of the world are concerned, there’s not yet a reason to be worried.

And without further ado, I give you some perspective.  6 Reasons North Korea is the Funniest Evil Dictatorship – Cracked Online