Fletcher in the News

North Korea Far Outscores South Korea on Civil Defense Prep: Prof. Lee Speaks with the Cipher Brief

Political and military leaders on all sides have assured the public that they are prepared for a potential war with North Korea, but how prepared is the public?

For decades, the likelihood of war seemed remote, but that was before North Korea developed nuclear weapons, and power in Pyongyang and Washington shifted to relative rookies at the art of international diplomacy, both of whom have issued provocative statements and threats against each other in recent weeks.

South Korea, North Korea, and Japan all carry out civil defense exercises in case of attack, but do so in drastically different ways. North Koreans drill for an attack daily, directed by loudspeakers that choreograph daily life. South Koreans conduct a national civil defense drill once a year, and military-aged males take annual training.

Japanese citizens, accustomed to finding shelter or mobilizing in case of earthquake, are wired into a nationwide text message alert program that also warns of potential North Korean attack. On Tuesday morning, local time, when North Korea fired a missile over the island for the first time in two decades, Japan’s high-tech gadgets chirped, giving Japanese citizens time the crucial few minutes necessary to prepare for a potential attack.

South Korea doesn’t have that system. And North Koreans don’t have smartphones.

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