Drilling for Times to Come (or: Some of These Days)

Rushing to catch the bus, I did not notice the strange absence of traffic noise. A siren called. Some helicopter noise from above but nothing in sight. Only blue skies.

Standing at the bus stop, I saw someone crossing the usually traffic-ladden street diagonally but did not give it a second thought. A few minutes later I realized there were no cars rolling by. On the other side two buses had turned off their engine and waited in the sun. Likewise some middle-aged men were smoking in front of the motorbike store that had opened recently. I started waiting, too.

I noticed the campus gate of Sogang University was closed and guarded by uniformed guys, the ones who usually regulate incoming cars. Traffic lights were changing as usual, but some sole food delivery bikers were the only motorized people and those never cared for red or green anyways. Students were ambulating as if nothing was happening. In fact there was nothing happening. Thoughts on nuclear downfall filled my mind while contemplating this empty stage. A olive green truck passed by. I sent a message out to find out what this was all about.

Before I received a reply, I saw the little flags mounted at every lightpole but could not decipher the three syllables because the wind-that-envies-the-spring-flowers (꽃샘바람) was blowing quite strong. A yellow car sporting a similar flag drove down the street and returned after a minute or so. I took a closer look and took out my handphone to do the translation. Then my friend’s answer arrived.

It was a civil defense drill (민방위 후련) that supposedly happens every month, at each fifteenth around noon. Must have been eating lunch all those times.

(The drill lasted until 2.15 p.m., two perspectives before and after provide more facts, for footage from central Seoul see this news coverage.)

— 15 Mar. 2011 (火)

About Jan Creutzenberg

Jan Creutzenberg, friend of theatre, music, and cinema, comments on his performative experiences in Seoul and elsewhere.
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