What is this moment of panic in Seoul?

It’s a bit like the story of the little boy who cried wolf. Seoul was panicked on Wednesday after an order to evacuate the city was issued following the launch of a North Korean rocket. Finally, it was a false alarm that leaves a bitter taste to the inhabitants. “Now, when a real alarm is triggered, no one will believe it,” a father told AFP. Back to this mess of the authorities in a country officially at war with North Korea.

An unclear evacuation order

“Citizens, prepare to evacuate and allow children and the elderly to evacuate first. This is the disturbing message, accompanied by a shrill ringtone, received at 6:41 am by all cell phones of Seoul residents.

The message did not specify why this alert was sent or where citizens were supposed to go. Seoul has long had a network of underground shelters, but in living memory they have never been used in an actual emergency. South Korea’s largest internet portal, Naver, fell due to excessive traffic generated by the alert, the company told AFP. The incident caused fear.

A false alarm

“We inform you that the alarm sent at 6:41 was issued incorrectly,” finally indicated a second alert sent about twenty minutes later. The first warning came after North Korea launched a rocket carrying a spy satellite, which crashed into the Yellow Sea due to a technical problem. But the South Korean military said the projectile never threatened Seoul and did not even pass over the region.

“It was a space launch over the sea,” tweeted Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Non-Proliferation Project (EANP) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “It’s like Japan sounding the alarm and asking everyone to go to shelters every time South Korea launches into space,” he said.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon defended himself, saying his administration “deemed immediate action was necessary” after the launch. “It may have been an overreaction, but there is no compromise in terms of security,” he told a press conference, while promising to review the alert system. of the city to prevent further confusion.

Residents not happy

Many Seoul residents expressed their anger on social media, with some even calling on the mayor to resign. “I took my two young children to an underground car park as I had been advised, I was in shock,” a 37-year-old father told AFP. As for the second message canceling the alert, it left him “speechless and furious. »

“They didn’t tell us why we had to evacuate or where we had to go,” complained one Twitter user, @duckdo_1226. “If a real war breaks out, I think I will end up getting killed. Another Seoul resident, @pedestrian_1234, said he was panicked: “I almost fainted, because the text alert told us to evacuate without giving really necessary information. “There was a voice announcement outside that I couldn’t even hear. My hands were shaking,” he says.

A country technically at war

South Korea remains officially at war with North Korea, the conflict between the two countries between 1950 and 1953 only ending in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

For Minseon Ku, a political science researcher at Ohio State University, Wednesday’s blunder is a symptom of a chronic security problem in the South. “This snag is unfortunate because with South Korea technically at war right now, it highlights a potential breach in civil security that could pose a real risk,” she told AFP. It is hoped that this incident will serve to remind local and national authorities that strong and reliable civil security trumps all other considerations. »

For Ankit Panda, another Korea specialist based in the United States, this mistake should lead to an investigation and a revision of South Korea’s operating procedures during the frequent missile tests by its northern neighbor. “False alarms can be particularly dangerous in times of crisis, but they also undermine public confidence in times of peace,” he told AFP.

Recent Articles

Related News

Leave A Reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here