2015-10-20 07.23.24

I grew up in the British zone in Germany, daily reminded of the fact we lived in an occupied territory. Tanks drove through my town almost daily, fighter jets flying below any acceptable height, causing daily panic attacks. I joined the millions of Germans when we demonstrated against the installation of small-range Cruise Missiles in Germany.The Wall was supposed to be around for a million years. All these memories faded after 1989. Germany became one nation, the troops left and the Cold War became just a distant memory. All these images are coming back now in South Korea.


We moved this week to an area that’s fairly close the administrative core of Seoul. One thing we noticed is the overwhelming presence of police everywhere. Often the police presence is larger than the demonstration itself. Yes, it can feel like an oppressive police state walking around Seoul. They don’t look like paramilitary threats or weaponized cowboys as in the US, they look more like young, lost adults forced into a uniform. Still, the presence itself makes you feel queasy.

2015-10-20 07.24.31

This morning I went on a hike close to Ingwangsan. A pretty area that used to be known as the “White Tiger Mountain” because tigers roamed its surroundings. Today it’s filled with hikers and police men. Everywhere. No arms, just binoculars.

2015-10-20 07.34.38

It’s easy to forget South Korea is still at war with North Korea. The government crazies on the other side keep South Korea on red alarm 24/7. And this fact shows its ugly side in certain zones in Seoul. While people live a normal life, there are hundreds of thousands South Koreans employed and deployed to keep everybody safe.

2015-10-20 07.40.19

When talking to younger South Koreans, they seem to be very realistic about the threat (low) and the probability of a reunification (even lower). And they are used to being at war.

2015-10-20 07.47.36

Coming from the outside, it feels strange to feel so safe one one hand and experience the fragile state of this safety on the other hand. The war never ended with a peace treaty, just a truce. Will there ever be a war again? Let’s hope the economic reality of North Korea and the emerging power of people will force them to change course. It happened in East Germany. It can happen in North Korea.

2015-10-20 07.32.11

Maybe one day all Koreans can walk on these wonderful hiking paths.

2015-10-20 07.46.03

2015-10-20 07.26.36

2015-10-20 08.15.44

2015-10-20 07.23.24

2015-10-20 07.37.17