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Asia

Life for young South Koreans goes on as usual

Despite the rise in tensions on the Korean peninsula, South Korea remains fairly calm. Protests against Kim Jong Il's regime have been small. Many young South Koreans do not see their neighbor as a real threat.

Recent protests against North Korea in Seoul have been attended by older South Koreans only

Recent protests against North Korea in Seoul have been attended by older South Koreans only

Protestors standing on the grass field of Seoul Plaza are showing their support for President Lee Myung Bak and calling for tough action against North Korea, but it does not take long to realize that there is practically no one in the crowd under the age of 60.

Young South Koreans have been visibly absent from any public outcry over the alleged North Korean attack on the Cheonan navy ship, which killed 46 sailors.

Some students at Seoul's Yonsei University, such as 20-year-old Kim Nayeon, say that until the bombs start falling, they won't worry about North Korea at all.

She says she's heard it all before: "I'm not very nervous because around me other people don't have any nervous feelings. There are so many threats from North Korea."

26-year-old Lee Seong Bin, however, thinks that the threats from both sides are more intense than before. But he's not ready to get out of town, unlike some of his foreign friends. "My Japanese and Americans friends here are all worried about North Korea," he said. "South Koreans are the only ones who aren't seriously concerned."

Product of liberal and nationalistic education system

Some analysts think that this apathy toward the North and the threats it represents is a product of a liberal and nationalistic education system that was introduced after military rule ended in South Korea two decades ago.

Tens of thousands of students protested against imports of US beef in 2007, including many young people

Tens of thousands of students protested against imports of US beef in 2007, including many young people

Brian Myers is author of "The Cleanest Race, How North Koreans See Themselves And Why It Matters". He is the director of the International Studies Department at Dongseo University in Busan.

"Young people who came of age or went to school between 1998 and early 2008 will probably have had history lessons that talked more about American atrocities during the Korean War than about anything bad that the North Koreans might have done," he said.

Myers added that that this could explain why more young people tended to come out to protest against US soldiers, or American beef imports, than against North Korean provocations, such as the alleged Cheonan attack.

Not all South Koreans blame North for Cheonan attack

Up to 20 percent of South Koreans, according to a recent poll, do not believe that the Cheonan was sunk by North Korea and this worries veteran South Korean journalist Shim Jae Hoon.

"They have the notion that whenever we criticize the North this is an extension of past anti-communist education, so that's why they refuse to see the real picture of North Korea, they don't believe the government," he said.

According to polls, up to 20 percent of South Koreans do not think a North Korean torpedo sunk the Cheonan

According to polls, up to 20 percent of South Koreans do not think a North Korean torpedo sunk the Cheonan

Conspiracy theories appearing on online message boards here say the government fabricated the results of the investigation into the Cheonan's sinking so it could grab more power in Wednesday’s national assembly elections.

Author: Jason Strother (Seoul)
Editor: Anne Thomas

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