Category : Other
Seoul is a modern, vibrant capital city in a very unusual position. Although the Korean War ended decades ago, technically there is still just a ceasefire in place rather than peace between North and South. Without getting overly political, North Korea has not proved to be a particularly friendly neighbour, so a 4km demilitarized zone exists between the 2 countries and both sides are always on the alert.
There is supposed to be a greater concentration of soldiers in and around this narrow stretch of land than anywhere else in the world, and with tensions always high or higher, it isn’t surprising that all sorts of emergency systems are in place. In Seoul itself, a mere 50km from the border, the possibility of attack is ever present, and people need to know what to do just in case.
It has been like this for a long time. I remember in the 1990’s, watching from a hotel window as a weekly drill sent everyone in the city centre rushing into the underground tunnels which act as bomb shelters as well as handy underpasses and shopping centres. In minutes, as sirens wailed, the streets were completely deserted.
On my latest visit, I was fascinated to see that on every subway station platform stand large cupboards packed with gas masks and emergency supplies. Not just one per station, but one per train carriage along the platform. Benches also doubled as holders for ladders which could be used to access the tracks for an alternative escape route…
Amazingly, despite the ever-present danger, Seoul continues to thrive so well it is giving Tokyo a run for its money. I take my hat off to such a resilient people!