Politics, Community & Society > Neighbour's attack strikes terror into the heart

Neighbour's attack strikes terror into the heart

Published: May 9, 2012

Outside my staffroom window, the red and orange autumn leaves keep falling.

In the hallways, teenage girls still squeal and punch and run in their new season jackets.

Students continue to apply foundation and eyeliner during English class, and I continue to confiscate mirrors.

“You need to work on this right now,” I say, pointing at my head.

“Not this,” I say, pointing at my face.

The wheels of this school and this city just keep on turning.

But the internet is stirring.

Since North Korea’s attack on a South Korean island this week, news stories and Facebook statuses have been frantically updated.

“Colossal danger,” warned one morbid headline.

“Oh no!” screamed a Facebook update.

“Run Blythe run!” suggested a photographer friend via a Facebook message from Australia.

But still, the everyday tap, tap, tapping on computer keyboards continues around the office.

In the middle of yesterday afternoon’s internet frenzy, I printed a copy of a BBC news article, wondering if perhaps I should be mildly concerned.

I walked over to the other side of the staffroom to show my friend Jeong.

“Hey, you want a coffee?” she asked, sleepily.

“Have you seen this?” I replied, sliding the article under her nose.

She skimmed the news.

“I’m not worried,” she said with a smile.

“North Korea always do like this situation.

“Foreigners worry about them, but I think it’s okay.

“Are you worried?”

I shook my head.

“Not really,” I said.

“But sometimes I wonder if I’ve become complacent about North Korea since I live so close.

“Maybe they really are a danger.”

Jeong smiled, shrugged, flicked on the kettle and continued marking exams.

I felt reassured by her indifference, and passed on that same attitude to my students.

“Girls, what are you doing?” I said, as I arrived in class to find half a dozen of them crowded around a single computer.

“Oh Blysuh, I worry terrible,” said one, covering her mouth in despair.

“Bomb! Bomb! Booooooooom!” said another.

I hustled them to their desks.

“Okay, look, sit down, we’ll talk about it,” I said.

“Don’t worry. Everything will be okay. The media is very excited about North Korea, but the real danger is low.”

They nodded confidently at my assurances.

I felt as calm as Jeong had appeared.

But by the next morning Jeong’s position on the attack had shifted considerably.

“Blysuh, I watch the news last night,” she said.

“Now I worry. I really worry. If there is war, will you run away to Australia?”

I confirmed that, yes, if a full-scale war did break out I would leave Korea.

“But I think the chances of that happening are quite low,” I said.

“Sometimes I wonder why I always prepare for the future,” Jeong replied.

“I am always preparing, but we don’t know what could happen.

“If there is war, all the preparation is nothing.”

She flicked on the kettle.

“Do you want a coffee?” she asked, as a gust of wind brought down more autumn leaves.

Published in the Sunshine Coast Daily, November 27, 2010

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