Calm and Catastrophe (Korea)

A North Korean soldier and a South Korean soldier keep watch at the truce village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju

This comment, which I read in the Washington Post, struck me as soon as I read it. It concerns the jitters in South Korea in relation to the massive cage rattling by North Korea. It’s an emblematic comment, I think, about the precariousness of contemporary life, mass society, and states of emergency in the nuclear age.

“We have no alternative to remaining calm, because what we can do to personally for prepare for emergency? Virtually nothing,” said Park Hyeong-jung, a North Korea researcher at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification. “We live in a congested area of more than 10 million population. What a catastrophic chaos we will have if individuals begin to worry about tomorrow.”

The balance between calm and catastrophe is as subtle if not far more subtle than most of the “political theology” with which I am familiar. It’s an incredible statement from or on the edge.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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