Monday, March 16, 2009

Okay everybody, kenchenaiyo (relax). The air raid sirens you hear are for drill/test purposes only--North Korea is not attacking, lol.

This afternoon I, along with every foreign teacher in Korea I imagine, heard air raid sirens going off.

I remember the first time I heard this in 2005. I was sitting at my desk working on lesson plans when I heard the sirens going off. I immediately assumed it meant North Korea was attacking Ganghwa Island (and the rest of the country).

I looked around the teachers office shocked that no one was panicking and running around freaking out. I sat at my desk for a minute in (culture) shock, and then asked my co-teacher what the hell was going on.

Apparently, on the 15th or so of every month, the air raid sirens are tested in Korea. The weird thing about this is that I don't think every region in Korea does actual tests EVERY month--so the sporadic nature of this cultural phenomenon is inconsistent at best, and inadvertently scares the freaking crap out of new foreign teachers.

So, if you heard air raid sirens today--relax (kenchenaiyo). It's just your local dude testing it to see if it's working.

I will add one more thing, however, and say that IF North Korea does attack it's highly likely nobody will react when the air raid sirens do go off because everyone in Korea is so desensitized to the sound. An attack could be going on, with air raid sirens trying to warn people, and yet because of the general everyday fatigue and stress and too many things to do at the last minute I suspect that most people will not even notice that it is NOT the 15th of the month . . .

Maybe North Korean strategists should consider re-scheduling the missile launch from the first week of April to the middle of April--NOBODY WOULD HEAR/SEE IT COMING!



Brian said...

Not down here. I guess that's because Jeollanam-do stayed loyal to the Fatherland.

Stafford said...

It happens on the 15th most months in Seoul, unless the 15th falls on a weekend. (After all Kim Jong Il likes his weekends!)
I dare say the upcoming "Satellite" launch gave a few people "the hurry up" today though. All traffic came to a halt for a good 15 minutes in Gangnam

Tuttle said...

I heard them today in Gangseo-gu. I have been told that up through the 1990s, there would be a test on certain Fridays, and everything was supposed to come to halt for fifteen minutes as a CD preparedness test.

Joe in Korea said...

Sookmyung actually makes everyone go inside when this happens. All the students walking from class are rushed into the closest buildings to wait out the 15 minute drill. A bunch of local ahjoshis don their special drill vests and wield their light sabers and maintain order.

We all feel safe and secure again and go about our business.

They had one of these a couple of years back that just happened to fall the day after the North's nuke test.

That was a little freaky for me.

Mark Eaton said...

Yes, the sirens were blaring away at 2pm in Suncheon, too. Our new teacher from Australia asked if we needed to get into a shelter or not.

The all clear blared at 2:15pm and that was that for this month.

Anonymous said...

I've been living in Uijeongbu - not that far from the border with North Korea - for the past 18 months and I've only heard our local air raid sirens once. I usually have class at 2:00pm though, which might explain why I haven't heard it more often.

I agree with your point that always having the alarms on the 15th makes that a very appealing day should North Korea ever stage an attack. Which brings to mind David's post, "What would you do if the North invaded?"

Kelsey said...

They test it twice a month here, and the rest of the time they use it for blasting the local elders singing karaoke. (I just posted a video of it, actually.)

Jackie Bolen said...

Hey thanks for checking out my blog! I hear ya about the being tired :)

timbot said...

I just heard them today and they freaked the hell out of me. Thanks for your post, half an hour of searching Reuters, the Korean Herald and the general interwebs to find out it was only a test! :)