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!
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