April 15, 2013

An American in South Korea

Murray native says S. Korea not living in fear of threats from N. Korean dictator

Misty Watson

— Virginia Barfield is more concerned when winter is going to end in South Korea than if North Korea is going to launch an attack.

“It’s the boy who cried wolf,” said Barfield, a Murray County native now teaching English in South Korea, during an interview via Skype on Sunday. “The Koreans have heard this for so long. They’ve heard the same threats from his dad.... It’s old news. It’s a different guy, but everything else is the same.”

Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, has threatened warfare on America and South Korea. Kim is the third in the line of Kims to rule the country, succeeding his father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung.

“I don’t even know if you can call it the elephant in the room. It’s kind of an ant,” Barfield said of the threat. “He’s just trying to fill the big shoes of his father and grandfather.”

Barfield, as well as her American friends also living in South Korea and South Koreans, haven’t changed their lifestyle in light of the threats.

“The Koreans never talk about it,” she said. “They never bring it up. Every day is another day. The Koreans take care of us so well. If there was really a legitimate threat, they’d say, ‘Please go home. Please seek safety.’”

While waiting on a bus recently, a TV at the terminal had a news program on. Though Barfield doesn’t know Korean she could tell the story was about the threats.

“They have the most stoic expression on their faces,” she said. “They stay informed. They don’t talk about it. There’s zero fear.”

Cindy Barfield, Virginia Barfield’s mother who lives in Chatsworth, says she worries about the safety of her daughter.

“It’s very disconcerting,” she said. “Her answer has made me feel a little bit more comfortable, knowing she has talked to others and they’re not new to this, not new to the threats.... It makes me feel a little bit better.”

Cindy Barfield doesn’t take the threats lightly, but she’s not sure how serious to take them either.

“Are they empty threats? Are they crying wolf?” she asked. “We don’t know how to take it. We can become too complacent, and I don’t want that to happen and take everyone by surprise.”

For now, she relies on her faith in God to protect her daughter.

“I have to have faith God will take care of the situation,” Cindy Barfield said. “There’s nothing really I can do.”

The American Embassy has told Barfield and others in South Korea there’s no reason to be concerned.

“Everything’s fine,” she said. “Nothing to worry about. There’s no concern.”

North Korea has issued threats on South Korean many times.

“We know the history of Korea is repeating itself,” Barfield said. “If there’s a real scare I think the American military and Japan would know. I don’t see North Korea outsmarting anybody.”

Barfield, who graduated from Murray County High School in 2002, moved to South Korea about 11 months ago to teach English to Korean students. She teaches several different ages and levels. She wanted an adventure, wanted to meet new people and experience new things.

“It’s been the best experience of my life. Easily,” Barfield said. “People make it so amazing over here. They’re so nice and so helpful. They’re very welcoming. There’s a beautiful sense of harmony.”

Two things Barfield misses about the South are the food and the climate.

“We’ve had so much snow!” she said. “Who has the time to sit around and worry? If something happens, it happens.”