South Korean embassy execs assure tension with North easing
MANILA, Philippines–Amid persistent talk about Manila’s contingency plan in case of a full-scale war in the Korean Peninsula, Korean Embassy officials said Wednesday that there is “no reason for alarm” as tension between Pyongyang and Seoul is starting to subside.
Offering a sobering view on the situation, Korean Ministry and Consul-General in Manila Min Kyong-ho said Wednesday that South and North Korea have begun exploring the possibility of a dialogue following weeks of intense war rhetoric from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“The tension is subsiding, I think. At least, the war of words is now I think ending,” Min told the Inquirer on Wednesday.
“You know North Korea, they have used very hostile rhetoric. So if you listen only to the words, it’s really serious but we are also watching their actions. The military movement is very, very important. We have been watching this but there is no particular alarming movement,” said the official in an interview.
The Philippine government has been reiterating assurances that the situation in South Korea remains “normal and calm” despite Pyongyang’s threats of a nuclear strike in its rival South Korea and allied United States.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has also said it was constantly updating a long prepared contingency plan to evacuate some 40,000 Filipinos from South Korea in case the situation escalates.
But Korean officials said the situation is way far from such a scenario.
“We understand that [the Philippine government wants to protect its citizens] but there is no reason for alarm at this moment. No need to really worry about it. No need to panic,” Min said.
“We are accustomed to this kind of rhetoric for a long time. It is part of our life. And we are, I think, very experienced in dealing with these things,” said the official.
Hwang Seong Un, Korean Cultural Counsellor in Manila, said Koreans were more interested in the new song of South Korean artist Psy, known for his global dance hit “Gangnam Style.” The artist’s new song “Gentleman” has been viewed 100 million times on online video platform YouTube since its Apr. 13 release.
“The general public is more interested in new song of Psy. They don’t care about the North Korean threat. They just care about the new song of Psy. And it’s business as usual,” said Hwang with a chuckle.
Amid the calm front, Min said South Korea remains alert for Pyongyang’s next moves.
“That doesn’t mean we are not alert. Because they make a lot of their negative remarks… so we are very cautious and alert but we don’t want to overreact. [We just make an] optimum, effective reaction. It’s enough for us. We are watching their actions very closely,” said the official.
Min had traveled to North Korea for at least eight times between 1999 and 2002 when he worked for the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), an internationally funded effort that froze Pyongyang’s nuclear facilities and instead aimed to build a light-water reactor plant to supply power to North Korea.
The project unfortunately failed and the light-water reactor was left unfinished. Pyongyang has since flaunted its nuclear capabilities, most recently climaxing in threats of launching nuclear missiles in retaliation for fresh international sanctions its was meted for nuclear testing earlier this year.
Min said North Korea is well aware of Seoul’s capabilities, backed up by US military might.
“We think the North Koreans also know our capability … our combined forces with the United States. We are dominating. So I don’t think they will be so foolish to start initiating an all-out attack or something like that. If they have a rational mind, I don’t think they will initiate that kind of action,” said Min.
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