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For some Korean international students at Penn, the physical distance between the United States and the Korean Peninsula has not diminished the potential effects these tensions can have on their immediate futures.

In the past few weeks, North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un has received much attention from the international community for his increasingly hostile threats and provocative actions, notably moving a missile to the east coast of North Korea, threatening to target the United States and warning foreign diplomats in North Korea that their safety could no longer be guaranteed.

In the past, North Korea has made threats to its neighbor to the south without always following through. While the tensions are noteworthy, College sophomore Julia Shin believes there is no need to overreact.

“It’s not as serious as people perceive it in America,” she said. Shin keeps up to date with Korean news and often communicates with friends in Korea, and says they are “not freaked out,” unlike what the American media portrays.

Engineering sophomore Jay Shin, who served in the South Korean army from 2009-2011, also sees nothing new about the current tensions between the United States and North Korea.

“The main thing is whether the U.S. media covers it or not,” he said. “They’ve been doing this over and over again — it’s a political tool they use to govern the people.”

Shin believes that tensions were actually higher while he was serving in the military.

“In 2010, when I was in the army at the time, North Korea shot a South Korean naval ship that made the vessel sink, and 50 soldiers died,” he said. “It was a very serious conflict and tensions were very strong, much stronger than the current state.”

If war were to break out between the two Koreas, all South Korean male citizens between ages 20 and 45 who reside in South Korea would have to enlist or help out the war effort in some other way. However, this rule does not apply to Korean students studying at Penn and other universities outside of Korea.

“If you’re studying abroad, they’re not going to force you back to Korea,” Wharton and College sophomore Kevin Lee said.

Some students are reconsidering when to serve their mandatory 21-month military service in South Korea.

“I know friends who decided not to go into the army now because of the rising tensions,” Julia Shin said. “They don’t want to risk going to war before tensions ease.”

On the other hand, Lee believes that the current tensions shouldn’t deter people from fulfilling their military duty.

“I’m going to the army for sure,” he said, adding that he plans on serving in the military this summer. “I know some people who are going, and my parents want me to go even if there are tensions, because it’s the right thing to do.”

Overall, safety is the primary concern among the Korean international students with families and close friends who currently live there.

“Most of our families are close to the border, so we just worry that if the war breaks out, a lot of friends and family will get hurt,” Lee said.

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