Kim Jong Il

The news spread through the staffroom like wildfire.


“…Kim Jong Il… dead!”

“…this morning….”

Everyone rushed to their computers to check, as if they needed to read the news with their own eyes before they could believe it.

I felt a mixture of relief and excitement – perhaps now the poor North Koreans would see a change for the better.  The internet reflected how I felt- Facebook was full of people celebrating the demise of the dictator.

In my staffroom however, the mood was far from jubilant.

“Isn’t his death a good thing?” I asked an English-speaking co-worker.

“Yes and no,” she replied seriously.  “Mostly no.”

She went on to explain that while Kim Jong Il had been an evil dictator, he had also been more or less predictable.  The successor, Kim Jong Un was an unknown.

“Maybe he will be peaceful.  Probably not.  He is young and not strong,” she said worriedly.  “Maybe people will not follow him.”

A little while later news came that the Korean armed forces had been put on high alert – not good news for the people in my staffroom.  Korea has a compulsory military service as it is technically still at war with North Korea.  Everyone has a son, brother, nephew or friend serving in the military.

“Well,” I said, trying to find something good about the situation. “At least we live far away from the border with North Korea!”

“Yes, but Carrie-teacher,” another co-worker chimed in. “Ulsan is the industrial centre of South Korea.  We are a …how do you say?  Ah… big target.”


“That’s right,” my co-teacher said.  “I read in the newspaper that if North Korea bombed Ulsan, there is so much gas in the refineries that there would be a very big fire-ball and Ulsan would be…. how do you say?  Wiped out.”


“Don’t worry, Carrie-teacher!  Everything is OK!”

Were they teasing me?  I didn’t know.  Koreans have a weird sense of humour.  It seemed entirely plausible though.  Ulsan would be prime target and there was an awful lot of gas in the oil refineries…

And with that, I had to end the discussion and head out for the sex, drugs and cultural enlightenment workshop.  It was extremely disappointing – no sex, no drugs and no cultural enlightenment.

That’s not entirely true.  From an earnest little police sergeant, I learned that to protect myself against theft I should “apply lubricant on my gas pipes”, to repel sexual crimes I should “bite my attacker’s eyes” and that fondling people in the karaoke bars is illegal.  I think something was lost in the translation…


About Carrie K

Teacher, writer, traveller. Slightly neurotic. Overly talkative. Loving life. You can also follow me on Twitter: kimchigirl72
This entry was posted in Korea, teaching in Korea, Travel, Ulsan. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Kim Jong Il

  1. Brooke says:

    There are tons of one or two sentence status updates about Kim Jong Il on facebook, but I love reading about the actual feeling in your staff room. What an interesting time to be over there. I’ll never, ever forget our trip to North Korea and how completely eerie and empty that city was. The weirdest part was having the North Korean citizens completely ignore us (especially after being stared at on a daily basis for the past 5 or so years). I have a feeling it’ll be a fairly peaceful transition but who knows. Just don’t get bombed over there, Carrie-teacher!

  2. aybeeoh says:

    Carrie Teacher, always a pleasure reading your blog. Oh and don’t forget it was “bite and poke attacker’s eyes”. I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d do both, but I’ll certainly try should the opportunity ever present itself. The police sergeant was quite cute though. I just wanted to put him in my pocket and take him home with me.

    I don’t hang out much in my staffroom, but the principal, who never speaks, came over excitedly to our table during lunch (mind you he had completely ignored me 5 seconds earlier at the buffet line) to get one of my co-T’s to translate the news. My co-T then began by asking whether I knew who Kim Jong Il was, adding “He is the premier of North Korea”. I responded in the affirmative and said, “Oh. So, I guess his son will officially become president now” more rhetorically than in pursuit of a response. My co-T, however, responded with “NO! His SON will become the next leader” to which I responded “But that’s just what I said”. Impending Ulsan obliteration asided, you’ve gotta love living in Korea ^^:

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