Occasionally I will be sat in my room in Seoul writing, when all of a sudden a sound both familiar and dreadful will stir me. It’s a sound I know from visiting museums about world war 2 in England which would have a soundtrack of mortar fire and the ‘Moaning Minnie’ as it was known.
Since that tumultuous time, I doubt the moaning minnie has really ever been heard. In Korea however, every 3 months or so, the early warning sirens are tested. It can be a daunting thing to a new comer in Korea, to hear those strained sounds reverberate across the city. There is never any cause for alarm, I still maintain that the media, as it seems with everything in this age, completely overplay the situation between the two Koreas. I have friends in the army (both American and Korean) stationed here who compare being stationed in Korea today with Germany in the 80s. Want to know what I mean? Watch the movie ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ with Joaquin Phoenix. A few buzz words like tension and animosity are all it takes for a ever increasingly sadistic press to misinterpret reality.
I reiterate, the siren will most likely only ever be a test out here. Check the time if you do hear it. 11am or 2pm on the dot are generally the test times. The siren will last 2-3 minutes then stop. They are usually indicators of a flyover by the air force in a civil defense drill or just a maintenance test for the equipment. If it is a defense drill you might also notice cars will stop in the streets whilst the alarm sounds. People may also stop. Most likely there will have been a public notice given on radio and in the news in Korean. Of course the best ploy is to watch the Koreans. If they are not panicking, then neither should you. Rest easy people. Go and eat some kimchi.