A parent’s fear

(Image: Reuters)

When we think of the threat of North Korea (however great that may really be is debatable), we usually fear for those enemies of theirs close by in South Korea and Japan, and of course their current Undesirable #1: The United States.

It’s tough enough being on separate continents, but when your loved ones live in a country that could be the first target of North Korea’s ever-growing nuclear arsenal, emotions become even more fragile. Despite having lived in Japan for almost a year now, I still worry about my dad and my younger brother living on the east coast of the United States. However, when the North Korean military began firing test missiles into the Sea of Japan, it became clear to me how my father fretted for my safety.

I opened my Facebook newsfeed to find an article about Japanese school children participating in drills shared by dad:

His own words accompanying it read “Having grade school flashbacks. Strange to see this happening, er, many years later. Thinking about my little girl.”

In our last few posts, Martin, Yuka and I asked South Koreans, Japanese, and US military members for their thoughts on the current events. This time, I reached out to my dad and asked what having a family member so geographically and politically close to the heart of the issue means to him.

“[It] means remaining informed and alert to the activities that occur in the region,” he explained to me. “In some respect, there is an understanding that the rhetoric used is just saber-rattling in nature and intended more for internal audiences in North Korea, not the rest of the world. Other actions are more deeply concerning,” he said implying North Korea’s capability of deploying nuclear missiles. “Even chemically- or biologically tipped missiles- given the apparent instability of Kim Jong Un, it is especially concerning should he gain this capability to deliver a weapon over distance. I worry that given that their accuracy is poor even an action intended as a show of force may go awry and spark a much larger conflagration that engulfs those nations and could impact my daughter significantly.”

North Korea’s most recent missile test failed, exploding seconds upon launch.




Reuters: Sirens blare as Japan, fearing North Korea,  holds first missile drill



An American sailor’s reaction to the North Korean Aggression

After interviewing my father and one of my military friends, I decided to know who would be next on my list regarding their reaction to the North Korean Aggression these last few months.

The United States has sent a dispatch of US warships and the USS Carl Vinson (aircraft carrier) toward the Korean Peninsula at the beginning of April. (Zerohedge)

Noting this, I decided to interview my friend Fiero Caesar, who works with the United States Navy and is currently deployed on the Marine Corps Air Station located in Iwakuni.

I wanted to get a sailor’s perspective on the rising tension that is growing in the Korean Peninsula between the United States (along with its allies South Korea and Japan) and North Korea.

Caesar believes that even if war breaks out between the United States and North Korea, that the citizens of Japan and the citizens of the United States (who are working in Japan on U.S. military installations or in Japanese businesses) should have nothing to fear.

“The United States has spent the last 80 years building strong relationships with allied nations, all in hopes that there will be no spark to another World War.”

He also believes that many nations are trying to avoid another possible war due to the existence of nuclear weapons.

“China is really the only country that that has a close relation to North Korea. However, China has recently stated that they would do their best in preventing a war between the United States and North Korea, because they believe it would be an “unending conflict” and lead to more tension between other nations”

It is good to note that many of the military members of the United States are very confident that even if war breaks out, then the United States and its will do its hardest to keep the peace and protect its allies.



“US Deploys Two More Aircraft Carriers Toward Korean Peninsula: Yonhap.” ZeroHedge. N.p., 16 Apr. 2017. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Remaining calm in a storm

I interviewed a Japanese who lives in Tokyo. He told his honest opinion.

“To be honest, I’m not quite sure the details since I’m indifferent to politics. I think most Japanese are not interested in politics. But I personally think the situation right now seems a bit different from before. North Korea have done nuclear tests many times before, and I used to forget about it after I saw the news. And people didn’t seem to care about it either. However, right now every news show have been covering North Korea for a few weeks. Every time I turn on TV, people are talking about the topics such as impacts on Japan and emergency response. Watching experts discuss seriously makes me doubt that they are serious about shooting missiles this time.”

He explained the current mood around him. “There are some people who say that they are planning to leave the country. I often heard this kind of conversation right after the great east Japan earthquake, but I know we are saying that as a joke regarding North Korea.”

Unlike South Korean, he said that he was scared of North Korea. “The relationship between the U.S. and North Korea has changed since president Trump was elected. Since it looks like he doesn’t shy away from using military force, I’m really concerned if he starts a war.”

“I watched on TV that Japan has the technology to shoot missiles in the air, so if they did launch missiles, or whatever, I hope they won’t reach to us. I want to believe that they don’t shoot missiles toward Japan, but still, I’m very scared.”

“We have no choice but to live under fear of earthquake and threats of a neighboring country, Japan is such an unlucky country,” he said, smiling.


A way toward a better understanding

Twenty years ago recalls Kyo-hee Park, Ph.D., a Korean Language teacher at Temple University Japan Campus, was the year of the 15th presidential election in Korea. “At that time, North Korea was under the regime of Kim Jong-il, and it was a time when the nuclear issue and the long-range missile problem were not serious compared to the present regime under Kim Jong Eun.” She says that President Kim Dae Jung, who was elected as the 15th President of the Republic of Korea, had a pacifist sunshine policy regarding North Korea. “Therefore, I think that the threat of North Korea 20 years ago was not enough to worry about.”

After the impeachment of Park Geun-hye, the upcoming presidential election in South Korea has everyone speculating how the outcome will influence the current situation. “I think that depending on what the presidential candidates’ policies on North Korea is, it can become momentum to further provoke North Korea,” Professor Park points out. “I think we can make Korea stronger or weaker depending on which candidate is elected and how Korea is lead into the future.” Then, not only is North Korea an issue, but internal strife within the ROK could boil over. In some cases, like the division of the people caused by the election of President Trump in the United States, I think that divisions within the Republic of Korea could also make us weaker.”

Then, not only will North Korea be an issue, but internal strife within the ROK could boil over. “In some cases, like the division of the people caused by the election of President Trump in the United States, I think that divisions within the Republic of Korea could also make us weaker.”

Despite this, Professor does not think this is a time of tension since the tension has always been there since the division of the North and South.  As a Korean teacher to non-native speakers of various backgrounds, she feels her job can have a positive impact on society, and I wholeheartedly agree. “[It] is a great way to give students the ability to learn about Korean society. I think that the contents of Korean society may be distorted in the process of being translated into English or other languages, and if students can understand Korean directly, understanding of Korean society will be more accurate.”





North Korea Aggressions: Military friend’s reaction

North Korea has been an issue for the entire world despite the rogue nation’s puny size. Despite North Korea being a small nation, it’s government has a history of launching missile tests close to the island of Japan. Recently, North Korea has responded to the aggression from the United States deploying an American Nuclear aircraft carrier in the waters close to the Korean Peninsula (firstpost).

North Korea Missle

North Korea has shown the world that it holds onto deadly missiles that are ready to strike at any moment, or does it? There are many questions regarding whether North Korea has a legitimate nuclear program or not. Technically, according to BBC, “North Korea has conducted several tests with nuclear bombs”. There are also claims that North Korea it has “successfully “miniaturized” nuclear warheads” (BBC), despite these claims, there has not been any solid proof that North Korea has successfully developed the miniaturized warhead.

There have been a number of reactions from people regarding the aggressions from North Korea, along with the midst of another World War breaking out. Despite this, China has been on the move to stop the tensions between North Korea, and the United States along with its allies Japan, and South Korea who are working together to prepare for a possible attack from North Korea.


Curious about the reactions diverse groups of people may have of this event, I decided to interview a couple of my friends. First, my military friend, Sgt Brian Coykendall USMC, who is currently stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni Japan, gave his input is on the North Korean aggression.

Coykendall stated that: “North Korea is a joke of a country and political standing. They offer no real threat to the established military powers in the world.”

Based off what Coykendall stated, it seems that the United States Marines are prepared for any kind of aggression that the North Korean military may give to its next-door neighbors. So, this should offer a boost of confidence to those who are very worried about what may happen if North Korea decides to attack.






“North Korea’s nuclear programme: How advanced is it?” BBC News. BBC, 06 Jan. 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

“North Korea: Ready to respond to aggression from United States of America” Firstpost. N.p., 22 Apr. 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

United States Marine Corps Flag [Online Image]. Retrieved April 22, 2017, from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_the_United_States_Marine_Corps.svg

North Korean Missiles [Online Image]. Retrieved April, 22, 2017, from: https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-04- 16/north-korea- missile-launches- nuclear-detonations-timeline

Close to trouble

I reached out to a friend of mine from Korea who lives in Seoul. I asked her what she thinks about living with the constant threat of North Korea.

“Everyone around me seems pretty calm about it because they always make threats. That’s what North Korea does all the time. Even if I see something on the news, I’d think like what are they doing? They are doing something foolish again. And then we just go back to our daily lives. Since it happens every year, all the threats don’t mean that much. Also, we have many political issues in South Korea right now like the upcoming presidential election. So I think everyone’s more concerned with the election than North Korea,” she explained.

Although North Korea is right next to South Korea, she said that she wasn’t scared at all.

“I’m not scared anymore. I guess I was scared when I was a kid. Every time I was very worried to find out they’re doing nuclear experiments. But we all got used to this because it happens too often,” she told based on her experience.

“It’s just media is overreacting this time. North Korea threaten us only when they are in need of something, I think they just want food and water this time too. If they launch nuclear missiles for real, they for sure would get attacked back, I think they must be aware of what would happen after they attack.”

According to her, the number of foreign tourists is decreasing due to current North Korea’s threats. “If I were from outside Korea, I might be very worried to visit Korea too. But if you come here, you will know that it’s safe. I think there is no place safer than South Korea. I wish people could just visit South Korea to find that out.”


Take the root: a South Korean soldier’s perspective

It never occurred to me for many for years that the Korean War never really ended. This means that the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the more infamous North Korea) are actually still at war. As a result, two-year conscription is mandatory for all able-bodied and able-minded male South Korean citizens which they must have begun by latest age 30. This conscription is rather long when I compare it to my mother country’s (Norway: one year, and very easy to be excused from), as it is meant to have a ready active-duty military and a standing one, should the current situation escalate.

Kyu Song currently studies International Affairs in Tokyo at Temple University’s Japan campus but took a 2-year long “break” from his studies to complete his conscription. The 25-year-old South Korean citizen was stationed primarily at the notorious DMZ, or Demilitarized Zone.

“It was extremely quiet,” he said of his post at the DMZ, “It was a super long line of areas but I could hear nothing. But they’re there. If I were to make noise with my gun, they will surely fire back (although nothing like that ever happened).” He said the tension in the atmosphere was almost tangible. “The air of death that can happen any moment while I was guarding up there.”

I asked what it’s been like living here in Japan while things are unfolding over on the Korean Peninsula. His response really surprised me:

“I feel safe but to be honest, indifferent because I don’t see myself living in Korea in the near future. The army was the place where I gave up hope for the Korean society and community and I threw away most of my patriotism. To be honest, I am not worried about my family at all because I have been living through this all my life. Rather, my family and friends are more worried about me living in Japan where there are earthquakes and possible radiation than themselves are. It has been so naturalized that I am not really concerned. If anything, I should be more concerned about the soldiers who are guarding the borders.”

Gyu made it very clear when first meeting him that he was eager to work in China after graduating. His goal: to be a part of the distillment of tension between the three Asian superpowers: China, South Korea, and Japan. “I feel that China and Korea will be a harder wall to breach when it comes to making peace. It is natural that the USA is going to connect Korea with Japan and China will not tolerate that. Especially after what is going on with the North Korea at the moment. As a Korean though, I am happy that there are tensions going up in the peninsula. Sure, nobody wants a war, but the perpetual aggression of the North Koreans shooting missiles…

Presidents of both the United States and the Republic of Korea have said they “condemn” the actions that have been ongoing for years and I’m getting tired of it. Because of this, so many soldiers from the Republic of Korea have died, “ he explained, referring to the tragedy of the Choen Ahn Naval officers whose ship was sunk in March of 2010, supposedly by North Korean forces. 46 of the 104 personnel on board were killed. “Just firing back only when they fire something at us is not going to stop anything I am on the side of taking the root off once and for all.”



North Korean Aggressions through the eyes of an ex-Marine in Japan

As a dependent of a retiree who worked about 25+ years in the United States Marine Corps, I decided to see what his reaction was to be on a continent so close to what may soon become the battlefield of the next war.

My father, Retired Captain Martin Ziola Jr., was enlisted into the Marine Corps after finishing High School, he informed me that over time the Marine Corp trained him to become a better man and is what made him the man he is in the present.

There are many American Citizens who are currently working in Japan for either a local Japanese business or for the most common positions on American military bases. In my father’s case, he works on a Military installation for a business called DPRI, which helps with the construction and expansion of the Military installation in General.

I decided to ask my father what his reaction is to the conflict between the United States and North Korea. He was very unsure about what to say because he feels that running away from reality is not the answer.

“I don’t know what I’ll do if war breaks out with North Korea but me and along with other people who are in the same boat should just continue to live their lives in Japan. Running isn’t the answer, especially since the United States is involved in this. North Korea is a very small rogue Nation compared to the powers of the United States and its alliance with South Korea and Japan. Should a war break out, I think the United States and its allies will destroy North Korea in less than two months.”

He also shared his thought on how everyone underestimates the South Korean military. “I think a lot of people underestimate the power of South Korea, but the military might of South Korea has a lot of potential compared to most militaries in the world. They are always ready since they are always training just in case North Korea decides to attack since their war technically hasn’t ended yet and is at a stand-still, honestly I think South Korea can do a lot of damage to the North Korea military by themselves.”

I feel that my father’s words are very comforting to those who are very worried from what may happen if war breaks out. It should help everyone realize that North Korea offers no immediate danger to the neighboring countries especially since the United States and its allies are involved.




War a legitimate possibility?

I interviewed a temple university student who used to work for the U.S. military and asked what he thinks would happen between North Korea and the United States.

“Tensions between them have been rising dramatically, but I don’t think North Korea would start a war with the United States,” he said explaining the situation of North Korea’s nuclear test.

“North Korea is working on their nuclear capability. However, even if they acquire nuclear bombs, they have to make the technology small enough to fit on the missiles that they are shooting. So right now, they don’t have the technology to fire missiles that could hit America, and even if they did have the technology, they don’t have the technology capable of making a nuclear device small enough. In terms of North Korea attacking America with a nuclear device, it’s not possible right now,” he said.

Then I asked the impact on Japan in terms of missiles.

“North Korea does have missiles that could hit Japan. They technically could target American military bases in South Korea or Japan. However, the United States could shoot those missiles in the air. The US has the capability to attack North Korea with nuclear missiles if they want to. The technology for the US to attack North Korea with nuclear weapons does exist. If North Korea attacked the US military base, they risk America attacking in response.”

According to him, North Korea’s number one goal is not destroying the US. “The number one goal of the regime is to stay in power. All they want to do is continue to rule the country. Anything that they do that could risk them losing power is not a smart decision. Attacking America might be a part of their goals but it doesn’t anything good for them. That’s going to be very expensive for both North Korea and America. It’s also going to cost a lot of people’s lives and money. Neither of them wants to fight against each other,” he explained reassuringly.