Today, April 15th, is the birthday of the founder and first leader of North Korea, Kim Il-Sung, and is considered the most important holiday in DPRK. Every year, this is celebrated by parades, fanfares, oh and the usual missile testing / potential nuclear test hanging over the peninsula in the lead up to the day.
It’s an annual thing, and whilst many Koreans don’t seem particularly phased by it, to me it is a stark reminder that we live in a country that has never signed a peace treaty, a country that is still at war. Now this doesn’t affect day to day life usually – I didn’t even notice it was happening last year – but this year’s planned birthday celebration by our ‘friendly’ neighbours have lead to increased tensions and concerns over our safety here. On top of this, there is the fact that the annual response/show of strength from the US was decidedly disproportionate – dropping of a MOAB in Afghanistan – and well, I’m nervous.
Let’s bear in mind that I have a seriously over-active imagination. Flashback to last week’s Board Meeting when I read 5 psychological thrillers. I now refuse to have a cleaner come to the apartment in case they are a serial killer/pull some sort of single-white-female action on me and I’m lucky, really lucky, that Raj is so indulgent of my crazy. Anyway, I digress. Now that you can begin to understand that I have a slight tendency towards over-reaction, you can imagine the effect that even the smallest threat of nuclear conflict has on me.
So all of this means that today, I’ve cancelled our weekend in Seoul (we’ll still go in tomorrow for the Coldplay concert – no way in hell I am going to miss that!) in favour of staying in Songdo working on my contingency plans. Sadly, I feel like I do need my own plans as the British Embassy cancelled its LOCATE programme in 2013, so we can’t register with the embassy here, the UN doesn’t have a contingency plan because the threat of war has always been considered low and accordingly, Raj’s office doesn’t have a contingency plan in place either. [Note from Ed. Amma when you are reading this, it’s still fine here, don’t worry, because obviously, knowing Raj, all the plans we need are in his head]
So far, I’ve made sure that our emergency evacuation bags are packed – see below for the list of recommended items to keep packed ready to carry with you – I’ve signed up for the South Korean travel advice alert emails from the British Embassy, and I follow the British and US embassies in Seoul on Twitter for any updates. I’m keeping an eye on the UN non-family posting duty stations list and, when Raj is travelling at the end of the month I am planning to go visit my brother and sister-in-law in Canada instead of staying here alone which I would normally do. I mean, this last step is 100% not necessary but if (big, hugely unlikely IF) Raj got an email from work regarding an evacuation I’d only get the update 8 hours later due to time differences as these aren’t sent directly to family members and that would freak me out. This happened when the demonstrations in Seoul over President Park’s impeachment were at an all time high – Raj was in Europe (9 hours behind), so by the time he woke up and saw the email advising us to avoid downtown Seoul and forwarded it to me, it was late afternoon and had I been going to Seoul, I’d have already been there. So yeah, for the moment, Raj travels, I travel.
Ok last bit of over-cautious worrying stuff from me. Here is the list of what the British Embassy recommends you keep packed in case of emergency:
Essential Items & Documentation:
- 3 days supply of lightweight, high energy, non-perishable ready-to-eat food and water per person.
- Eating utensils
- Toiletries (toilet paper, soap, tissues etc)
- 30 days supply of essential medicine or prescription drugs
- If you have a baby, at least 3 days supply of milk formula, food, nappies etc
- Local Identity Card
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Nationality documents (if relevant)
- Power of attorney if you are taking charge of someone else’s child or children
- Blankets or sleeping bag
- Extra clothing (inc. one warm item whatever the weather) and strong footwear
- First aid kit
- Torch and extra batteries
- Small AM/FM radio with extra batteries. Lightweight SW radios if possible
- Money: Local currency and US dollars
- Insurance documents
- Medical records including vaccinations
- Driving licences
- Financial documents
- Address Books
- Household inventory
Right, I’m off to bother Raj with a slew of questions and ideas for our contingency plan. Stay safe friends x