Spies and Such- Then and Now

I read an online article today and wanted to share the contrast between when we were here 12 years ago compared to now.

Presently, North and South Korea are still at war. There was never a peace treaty signed during the Korean conflict- only a cease fire, which leaves the countries still at war with one another.

I want to mention that all of the news stories mentioned below happened while we were living in Korea.


When we arrived in Korea the first time it was in 1994 there was a lot of tension between the two countires. I remember going outside on a beautiful June day soon after arriving - it was a Friday- and being greeted by air raid sirens and cars that were driving were pulling over to the side of the street. What in the world was going on? Noone prepared me for this! I soon found out by friends that these drills were done once a month since we were living so close to the DMZ.

I remember the story about the North Korean pilot. He was in his jet and had his boots stuffed with newspaper to keep the cold out of his feet while he flied. Yearning for freedom, he had left behind his family in North Korea and flew his jet over the DMZ to Kimpo Airport in Seoul. There was supposed to be alarms going off as he intruded into Southern air space but no alarm was ever sounded. He told of how his family would be treated since he would be defecting and of how the North Korean people were starving.

There was also the time when North Korean spies were found on the beach in KangWon Province in the North East part of Korea. We heard news stories of how fisherman from the North would cross into Southern waters and were warned to leave. One of these boats (or was it a submarine since my memory is fuzzy on which) attempted to have North spies swim to South Korea in wetsuits. They never made it, but their bodies were found on the shore. After this account, armed S Korean armed forces were in high alert and searching every vehicle at checkpoints on the roads. Reality Check.

There was a man who defected from North Korea. His Aunt was dictator Kim Il Sung's wife. He fled the North and was making his life in Seoul living in an apartment. He changed his name and appearance by plastic surgery to be less recognizable to the spies who would be looking for him. Speaking ill against the leadership of Kim Il Sung had drastic consequences when the spies found him and killed him. How sad for a man wanting to start life anew.

Since we lived so close to the border, I heard stories of propaganda being sent over attached to weather balloons to send messages to the Southern People to plant doubt in their minds against their government. What a trinket I found on the ground in Tongduchon. The pic shows none other then Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright. ( I think they need a new cartoonist since the resemblance is very little lol) The other person is the then president Kim Young Sam. The propaganda is small in size- about 2 by 4 inches or so. I keep it in my purse and have done so for the last 12 years.

Reading the following link this morning, I was surprised at the stark difference compared to our first time compared to the present. I do have to take into account that we live down South now but I do think that even in Seoul the same feelings of safety are prevailing.



  1. Interesting contrast, Lillian. Thought-provoking. We were in Okinawa at the time of the Pueblo incident, which is ancient history now, but it was a little scary with everyone on alert, and it was already high alert status because bombing runs over North Vietnam were made from Okinawa.

  2. Thank you very much for your intersting report. Japan's position is always delicate between both Koreas. Do you know Korean TV dramas are very, very popular here. We are so sorry Mr Koizumi, prime minister, is neglecting Korean people's feeling about the history.