i hope i laugh at this in the morning.
March 26, 2010 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Living extremely close to North Korea, I'm very concerned about the news that a South Korean ship was sunk tonight, possibly by the North. Looking for practical advice for what-if scenarios and general reassurance.

I'm about 15 miles from the border, and a US citizen.
posted by acidic to Law & Government (9 answers total)
Call the US embassy? They probably have a contingency plan for evacuating citizens, I could be wrong.
posted by Think_Long at 10:14 AM on March 26, 2010

From the State Department.

The U.S. Government has developed a Non-combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) plan for the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Korea in an emergency. A guide for U.S. citizens about the NEO plan is available online at http://korea.usembassy.gov/emergency_evacuation.html, or at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.
posted by IanMorr at 10:14 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I should add that this is general advice that has been there for a while and not something the developed and posted in response to this incident.
posted by IanMorr at 10:15 AM on March 26, 2010

You have registered with the embassy right?

I don't know the protocol where you live, you may not HAVE to register. But, in potential hot spots it is always a good idea.
posted by edgeways at 10:24 AM on March 26, 2010

Don't worry about it. The two countries fire at each other from time to time. It happens. Occassionally they kill a few soldiers, even. A war won't start this way, and even if it did, it wouldn't matter how close to the border you were.
posted by smorange at 10:27 AM on March 26, 2010

First of all, it's important to keep in mind that these kinds of skirmishes - including weapons fire, and deaths - do happen every couple of years, and obviously they haven't led to renewed large-scale hostility. There may be a cease-fire in place but it's not even a full peace treaty, the war's technically still going. I know that sounds like it should make things less safe, but my point is this: Frankly, things are tense enough that if either side wanted a full-scale armed conflict, they really wouldn't have to resort to this sort of exchange as an excuse - there are incidents all the time that could easily be used as the premise for an attack. The South definitely doesn't want war, and the North has demonstrated admirably that it isn't really concerned about international opinion. So even though this is a noteworthy event, you're still as safe as you were before it happened.

Inasmuch as you need to reassure yourself, the evacuation plan IanMorr listed is what you're going to want. The short version is that in the event of a crisis, the US will be announcing very loudly and publicly what you should do, and it will be an implementation of the evacuation plan, and will probably boil down to "grab your passport and get to the evac point ASAP, and make sure you pay attention to the radio for any updates."
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:29 AM on March 26, 2010

Sign up with the Embassy alerts. They'll email you for minor stuff and call you for major stuff.
posted by k8t at 10:31 AM on March 26, 2010

I used to live there for 9 years (near Seoul), and you just get used to the little bubbles of aggression. War is very, very, very unlikely. But if it makes you feel better, sign up for the embassy alerts. And watch AFKN a lot for US citizen-specific updates?
posted by hellomina at 11:04 AM on March 26, 2010

Former Korea resident here. There exists a non-combatant evacuation plan. However, there are tens of thousands of American citizens in Korea, and I don't expect the North Koreans plan to give a lot of notice before invading.

In the event the North Koreans decide to finish the job they started in 1950, you're going to have a front-row seat unless you leave the country before the fireworks.

So, you can play the "better safe than sorry" card and get on the next flight out of Incheon; this move has a 99.99% chance of making you feel really silly the next day, and an 0.01% chance of making you feel like the rest of your life is a gift you were almost denied.

Or, more reasonably, you can develop a game plan for letting the fighting "roll over" you while you hunker down. A few things to think about if you take that option:
  • Blasts shatter windows for miles around. Right next to your bed, you should keep footwear suitable for walking on broken glass.
  • Decide on a place where you can -- quickly -- shelter. Preferably somewhere underground, that provides cover from small-arms fire and shrapnel, and that provides good fallout protection (e.g. a spot where there are at least 2-4 feet of solid mass between you and any outdoor fallout-accumulating surface). This is where you will spend the first few days of the war, as the heavy fighting sweeps by you. If the war goes nuclear, plan on spending 14 days in the shelter until the fallout decays sufficiently to venture out briefly.
  • Pack a bug-out kit with water, food, season-appropriate clothing, bedding, plastic sheeting, batter-powered radio, flashlight, etc. Keep it near at-hand. Or preposition some of it in your shelter if appropriate.
  • Do you have a gas mask? If not, this might be a good time to shop around for one. Assume that the initial DPRK attack will use nerve gas to "soften up" the defenses; plan on wearing the mask for your first day in the shelter. Learn how to hydrate while wearing the mask.
  • The North Korean occupation will be ugly, but probably brief. Visibly non-Korean persons may be liquidated on sight by the North Korean forces, under the theory that they may be spies or saboteurs; YMMV. Staying hunkered down and out of sight may be your best course of action. Being one of millions of hungry freezing refugees trekking across the chemically contaminated, bomblet-strewn battlefield is not advisable.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, this Yellow Sea naval incident is just one of a long series of skirmishes that have been happening for the past five decades. War is probably not imminent. But if it helps your peace of mind to make a few inexpensive preparations for the possibility of war, go for it.
posted by Dimpy at 1:39 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

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