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Japan: Confusion and speculations on the North Korean incident

The latest attack [en] by North Korea on South Korea has put Japan on the alert. Is it the beginning of a war? Will it be Japan's turn next time? Or is it just a ‘beat-up’ created by both conservative and alarmist media alike? People in Japan are alarmed but don't know what to think.

The northern neighbor has always been viewed with suspicion by the Japanese islanders, as several missile launches [en] in the recent past and ongoing issues such as the abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s [en] have contributed to create a climate of diplomatic tensions between Kim Yong-Il's regime and Japan.
And so stacks of commentaries on the incident have flooded TV programs and editorials, but media-distrustful Japanese people smell a rat and give their own interpretations of the incident.

By Ryuugakusei. CC License.

Kayo proposed an emergency plan just in case something terrible happens.

こんなに近い国で砲撃事件が起こったのは自分が生まれて初めてのことだったから、今までの遠い中東での戦争と違って、すごく現実感があるし、緊張する。
「北朝鮮こわいねー」「そうだねー」なんて脳天気な会話は平和ぼけが垣間見えて違和感あるし、「北朝鮮は頭がおかしい国だ!」とか悪態つく人もたくさんいるけど、世の中に余計な怒りを広めてる分全然共感できない。どちらも意味のない会話。

It's the first time since I was born that an attack like this happened in a neighbor country. It's different from the war in the far Middle East. This time it's real and makes me nervous.
I feel quite uneasy when people make careless comments like “North Korea is really scary! Oh yes, indeed!” typical of a country that is not experiencing conflict. Many say “North Korea is a crazy country!” with malice in their words. I really don't understand those who spread rage like this in this world. They are all meaningless conversations.

こういうときって冷静に、自分に今できることは何だろうかと、次のステップを考えて実行することが大切じゃないかな。テレビやネットを見て無駄に不安になったり、怒ったりするんじゃなくて。
例えば、サバイバルグッズを揃えたり、非常持ち出し袋をセットしておくとか。って笑われそうだけど、地震の備えにもなるしね。
それから、もしものときに少しでも生き延びられるように体力づくりをしておくとか…ってこれも人に言ったら笑われるな~。でもダイエットになるし、一石二鳥。

In cases like this, it's important to think what to do next and consider in a sober-minded way how one can prepare, without getting anxious and angry because of the news watched on TV or read on the internet.
For example, one could prepare survival goods or set up a bag with emergency stuff. I know that some people may laugh at me but it's also handy in case of an earthquake.
Even training your body so that you'd be able to live a little longer in case something bad happens…People may laugh at me also for this but it can also be an excuse for a diet, so two birds with one stone.

Fear of an imminent war made some bloggers, like teruteruasita , reflect on what counts in life and the bliss of living in a peaceful country.

・・・・・ニュースを見ていて・・・・・鳥肌が立った。
北朝鮮は世代交代にあたって、その軍事力をみせしめるためなどの噂が早くもたっているが、そんなことは・・・どうでもよく、とにかく戦争は・・・怖い。
人間が死んでしまうのが怖い。
みんな家族や友人がいる。
一瞬にして失う。
平和・・・・。それが成り立ってこそ、みんなが幸せなんだ。

…I had goose bumps when I saw the news…
Rumors said that because of a generation change [in the leadership], North Korea wants to show off its military power but…I don't care…I'm just scared of war.
It's scary that people die.
Everyone has a family or friends and they can be lost in one second.
Peace…Only if peace is built will people happy.

But does it make sense all this alarm? some wonder. Or is it just Japan being hyper-sensitive to whatever actions North Korea takes?
Chisa Murakami says things sound different when asked of a person who actually lives in South Korea.

しかし・・・北朝鮮の砲撃にはびっくりしました。
こんなに近いところで実際に攻撃してくるんですものね。
「頭きた」となると、日本だって打たれるかも知れない・・・。
いや〜怖い国です。
一報の頃は会社にいてね。休日だけど、何人か出社していて皆でTVに釘付け。
とし坊はすぐにソウルのお姉ちゃんに電話したんだけど、
彼女はちびとマンガを見ていて知らなかった・・・。
日本の報道が大きくても、意外にご当地は冷めていることが多いからね。
そんなもんかも知れない。

North Korea's attack really surprised me. I realized that an attack in such a nearby place could really happen.
It's sufficient [that Kim Jong-Il says:] “I'm pissed off!” and Japan can be hit …
Hmm, what a scary country!
When the first news arrived I was in the office. It was a holiday but some people had come to work and we were all glued to the TV.
Toshi-boy ran to call his sister who was in Seoul but she was watching a cartoon with her child and didn't know anything [about the attack]…

Freelance writer Shigenobu Gu (具 滋宣), who grew up and lives between South Korea and Japan, tried to see the circumstances from the neutral and detached viewpoint of someone who knows both cultures very well.

11月23日に起きた北朝鮮による砲撃事件は各方面に大きなショックを与えた。ふたりの民間人までもを巻き込んだ今回の事件は、韓国政府が最高非常 警戒を発令するなど、近年まれに見る事態に発展した。私も周りから実家の心配をされるなどしたので、日本にも多少なり緊張感が走った様子だ。
韓国旅行をキャンセルする日本人旅行客も増えたとか。しかし実状は思っているのと少し違ったようだ。忙しかったのは韓国政府で、ほか多くの一般人は特に外出を控えたりすることもなく、普段となにも変わらない日常を過ごしていたというのはあまり知られていない。
先日の砲撃事件はその規模がかなり大きかったので日本のマスコミでも大々的に取り上げられたが、韓国と北朝鮮の衝突事件は実は何十年も前から数えきれないほど起きている。韓国の人々はもはや麻痺気味になってしまっていて、「また北朝鮮か」くらいで終了することも多い。最近では細かい事件となると韓国 のマスコミが北朝鮮ネタで視聴率を取ることすらままならないほどだ。

North Korea's attack on November 23 has shocked people for many reasons. This time even two civilians were involved and the South Korean government issued the highest level alert warning, a situation that has rarely been seen in the recent times.
People were worried for me and in Japan there was quite a nervous atmosphere. For instance, the number of tourists who canceled their travels to South Korea increased but reality was slightly different. Although the South Korean government was active, many don't know that the common people didn't need to stay away from the streets and nothing changed particularly in their daily lives.
Since the scale of the attack was quite large the Japanese media covered it extensively but in reality troubles between South and North Korea have been happening numerous times in the last decades. South Korean people are kind of used to this and “North Korea? Again?”, is often the usual reaction. To the extent that now, when something particular happens [involving the North], South Korean media seldom increase their audience share with news on North Korea.

[…]

今回の北朝鮮の砲撃事件を受けて感じた日本と韓国の温度差。それに気づいた私は、もしかしたら少しだけ平和ボケしていたのかもしれない。やはり日本はいい意味で平和な国だ。

I felt a quite different level of interest between Japan and South Korea in regard to this North Korean incident. Perhaps I felt it because I've become used to living in a peaceful country for there's no doubt that Japan is really a peaceful country in a good sense.

1 comment

  • […] Political Ups & Downs This year, Japanese politics presented a few unexpected turns of events. As soon as January, the new government elected last fall started to totter when PM Hatoyama hinted at taking back its promises to relocate the US bases outside the Okinawa prefecture: which made clear how the local population lived the problem very differently from those living in the main island, far from the bases. When the deadline came, in May, the government announced that the relocation project had been annulled and frustrated Okinawa people made their voice heard. Almost immediately after, the government fell and a new prime minister was elected, letting many voters confused. Amidst political instability and a looming recession, this summer Japan was officially surpassed by China as the second largest economy in the world. The Japanese people, however, weren’t particularly surprised and kept having faith in their country’s potential. Last fall was then characterized by international relations on a razor edge, to which Japanese bloggers and their neighbours reacted swiftly. First came the clash between a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese coastguard by some disputed islands, which ignited a virtual debate between two prominent bloggers, from China and Japan, respectively. Then came North Korean attack on a South Korean island: the Japanese netizens reflected on the incident and expressed their anxieties. […]

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