Canadians not about to leave or stay away from South Korea


[Canadians don’t seem too worried about war on the Korean Peninsula, judging from interviews with Canadians living in the Republic of Korea, and a group of Canadian Korean War veterans who are leaving on a tour to South Korea. We feature three articles that have appeared in the Canadian media recently. The first, distributed by The Canadian Press is taken from CTV News, 18 April 2013. The second appeared in numerous Canadian newspapers, such as The Chronicle Herald of Halifax, on 11 April 2013, with files from The Associated Press. The third is from QMI Agency and was published by various newspapers in the Sun News Network on 13 April 2013. –CanKor]

Canadian vets to tour South Korea despite threats from North

The Canadian Press, Ottawa, 18 April 2013
Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay looks on as Minister of Veterans Affairs Steven Blaney speaks with Korean War veteran Douglas Barber during an event on Parliament Hill, Tuesday, 16 April 2013. (Photo by Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press)

Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay looks on as Minister of Veterans Affairs Steven Blaney speaks with Korean War veteran Douglas Barber during an event on Parliament Hill, Tuesday, 16 April 2013. (Photo by Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press)

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney is preparing to lead a delegation to South Korea next week, despite bloodcurdling threats by North Korea against its neighbour. Blaney and a group of 36 veterans of the Korean War are to leave this weekend for a commemorative tour of battlefields and cemeteries.

He says Foreign Affairs is keeping a close eye on the Korean peninsula, where North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has been threatening nuclear war against South Korea and the United States. Blaney adds that the South Korean government hasn’t raised any red flags over the trip.

The five-day visit commemorates Canada’s contribution to the 1950-53 Korean War. About 26,000 Canadians took part in the conflict and 516 were killed.

Lt.-Gen. Walter Semianiw, who joined the minister’s morning teleconference on Thursday, said the trip isn’t going to be derailed by threats from the north.

“We’re going because, one, the government of South Korea said, ‘Come on over,’ our veterans want to go over and, at this point in time, we’re still going,” he said.

“The tensions that are experienced now are a demonstration of the importance of what our Korean War veterans accomplished 60 years ago and is a profound reminder of what they did then still has an impact today for the liberty of the peninsula,” Blaney said.

The Harper government has declared 2013 as the Year of the Korean War Veteran. The department says this commemorative tour from April 22 to April 27, will include ceremonies of remembrance at the Republic of Korea National Cemetery in Seoul, the Canadian Korean War Memorial Garden in Naechon and the United Nations Memorial Cemetery of Korea in Pusan.

Semianiw said the trip coincides with the 62nd anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong. In that 1951 fight, soldiers of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry successfully defended a hilltop position against Chinese forces which far outnumbered them. The Canadians were awarded a special unit citation from the United States. Semianiw called the battle “a defining moment for Canada in the Korean War.”

Blaney said there are about 10,000 surviving Korean War vets and he urged Canadians to take time to ask about their stories and thank them for their efforts.

Canadians feel safe in South Korea

By Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press (with files from The Associated Press), 11 April 2013

North Korea’s latest threat of a missile attack against its southern neighbour is not rattling Canadians living and working in South Korea, who say Pyongyang’s war talk is nothing new.

Andrei Cherwinski, 29, an English teacher on his third contract in South Korea, said nobody is taking the threat seriously.

“Everybody’s still going to work, everybody’s still going out on the town, nobody is concerned,” said Cherwinski, who is from Ottawa but now calls Seoul home.

Tensions in the Korean Peninsula continued to rise Thursday as North Korea hinted at a missile launch, claiming it had “powerful striking means” on standby.

Earlier this week, it warned foreign governments to evacuate their citizens from South Korea.

But observers suspect North Korea’s actions are meant to stir fear abroad and bolster the image of the country’s young leader Kim Jong Un. And the risk of an attack similar to the one that started the Korean War in 1950 is considered slim.

North Korea’s suggestion that the two countries are on the verge of a nuclear war doesn’t appear to faze locals in Seoul, and that attitude is rubbing off on expats, said Andrew Sachs, 28.

“I kind of follow the people around me, how everybody acts. I don’t see people getting upset,” said Sachs, who is from Haliburton, Ont.

He said an American co-worker who mentioned stocking up on emergency supplies was laughed at by his Korean father-in-law.

Among expats, the ongoing threats are a common topic of discussion and debate, but overall, “we don’t get too, too concerned,” Sachs said.

Ottawa isn’t advising against travel to South Korea, though it urges tourists to be vigilant in case the situation worsens.

There are more than 20,000 Canadians living in that country, including more than 5,000 English teachers, according to data compiled by the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea.

Several agencies who recruit Canadians to teach English in South Korea said they’ve fielded questions about the tensions from current and prospective teachers, but stress those familiar with the region are taking the latest developments in stride.

“We’ve been in business for almost 13 years now and it’s part of an ongoing cycle with North Korea,” said Shane Finnie, director of Toronto-based agency Canadian Connections.

“It’s pretty much business as usual. The teachers that are kind of on the ground in Korea are definitely just going on with their day-to-day life,” he said.

“It’s more so the people who are thinking about going in the next few months that have some questions and concerns,” he said.

Still, the next group of teachers is heading out Tuesday and so far, none have pulled out, he said.

Another recruitment company, Gone2Korea, said teacher applications had decreased slightly compared with the same month last year, but it’s unclear whether the change is due to turmoil in the region.

Those who sign up “don’t really seem to fear it too much,” said co-president Kirk Verdoold.

“A lot of Americans and Canadians as well, they’re taking it with a grain of salt, they’re a lot more educated than we expected on the subject, they’ve obviously done research,” he said.

In fact, it’s typically relatives back home who worry and flood teachers with concern after hearing the latest news in the media, Verdoold said.

Sachs said his weekly Skype sessions with relatives often include them quoting newspaper articles about the evolving tensions.

“They are a little bit worried but this hasn’t been the first time they’ve asked me. North Korea’s been in the news before, a year or two ago,” he said.

“I say to them that it’s nothing to be worried about.”

Canadians not heeding Kim Jong-un’s warning to leave South Korea

David Larkins, QMI Agency, Winnipeg, 13 April 2013

As images across 24-hour news networks paint pictures of impending doom looming over South Korea, Canadians living there say the real information is being lost in translation.

Riley Maw, a native of Brandon, Man., who has been in South Korea for eight years and currently lives about 20 km from the border to North Korea, said locals are used to the threats of their northern neighbours.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has raised the intensity of his rhetoric — threatening the United States with nuclear attacks and, just this week, advising foreigners to leave South Korea.

Maw, however, says the South Koreans have seen this all before.

“The mood here really hasn’t changed. For South Koreans these kinds of threats are somewhat routine,” Maw said. ”There have been no changes to daily life here. Every day when I come home the same kids are playing on the playground outside my apartment and the same people meet me at the bus stop each morning for my commute to work.”

It’s not time to panic, says Allison Lamb, a 24-year-old teacher from Boissevain, Man., currently living in Incheon, a populous northwestern city about 25 km from Seoul.

“While I’m of course being vigilant, I am not panicking like a lot of people seem to think I should be,” she said. “The issues surrounding North Korea don’t come up in conversation with my Korean friends unless I bring it up. They are not worried. They’re not naive, but they fact is, they’ve been living right next to North Korea and its threats their whole lives.”

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