Anxious wait for expats in Korea

This article is from page 4 of the 2011-12-27 edition of The Clare People. OCR mistakes are to be expected so download the original SWF or the rendered page 4 JPG

THE growing Clare expat population in South Korea is waiting with baited breath to see will any military action take place as a result of the death of North Korea dictator Kim Jong-il. Corofin man Maccon-Fionn McNamara is one of more than a dozen Clare people who are currently living in the South Korean city of Daegu.

As South Korea’s third largest city and the site of both a South Korean and American military base, Daegu would be a centre of activity if any live conflict emerges as a result of the transfer of power in North Korea. Maccon-Fionn works as an English teacher in Daegu, alongside fellow Clare natives Aidan O’Donoghue from Ennis, Alex Whyatt from Ennis, Maura Crawford from Inagh and Stephen and Mark Milliken.

“The main fear here at the moment is the possible consequences of a power vacuum. It is a domestic thing with different sanctions who will be vying for the power in the coming weeks. The worst thing that could happen is that, in an effort to show some sort of unity behind Kim Jongun, they could make some threatening actions toward South Korea. It has happened before. They find a way to blame the South and in that way to unify the country,” he said.

“The military here has been put on full alert and the war council was convened and they are also monitoring against cyber attacks coming over from the North. A missile was test fired on the day that Kim Jong-il died but they are saying that that is unrelated.

“At this stage, it is really a case of wait and see. They have lived with the threat over here for 60 years and now it is almost like a fact of life. I think maybe the older people are more concerned. They have experienced open war before and they know what it is like to have their lives and their families torn apart – it is not the same for the younger people.”

As it happens, Maccon-Fionn was on a trip to the DMZ, the demilitarized zone which borders North and South Korea, when Kim Jong-il died.

“There is an airbase in Daegu and I have heard a lot more activity coming from that, whether it be training exercises or something else. There is a lot more military traffic in the air.

“There is also a US military base here called Camp Walker where a lot of US soldiers are based, but it seems like that is mostly as-youwere, with a lot of training exercises going on.

“I was actually in the DMZ last week around the time that he died, but that is a total coincidence, I swear,” he said.

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