Thanks, America.

Annyong, Lindsay here.

Yesterday, Korea held a nationwide emergency drill. Luckily, a few of us knew about it ahead of time because the Canadian embassy released a statement ahead of time to let their citizens know it was nothing to worry about it. Here is what it said:

“South Korea will hold a nationwide special civil emergency exercise today at 14:00 for 15 minutes. Sirens will sound, transport will be stopped and some people may be asked to take shelter in metro stations or basements. Aircraft may be heard overhead. There is no need to be alarmed.”

As an American, I couldn’t help but wonder where in the world our embassy was to quell any fears that might arise from a nationwide civil emergency exercise. But, hey, I still hadn’t got a notice from the embassy that we should or shouldn’t worry about North Korean shelling of a South Korean island in November.

But, alas, today, the U.S. Embassy decided to wake up. Here is what they have to say. Though, please note, they still think it is not their job to let us know about these “regular” exercises. (The one yesterday was reported in the Korea Herald today as the largest since the 1970s.)

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul is transmitting the following information through the Embassy’s Warden System as a public service to all U.S. citizens in the Republic of Korea.  Please disseminate this message broadly to U.S. citizens.

This warden message is being issued in response to the announcement on December 16, 2010, by the Government of the Republic of Korea that it will “hold a one-day live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong Island between Dec. 18 and 21.”  The Embassy does not assess that there has been an increase in the threat environment in South Korea

Given the increased tensions since the North Korean shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, 2010, it is understandable that U.S. citizens would be concerned regarding the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.  However, the Embassy reminds U.S. citizens in the Republic of Korea that military training exercises are routinely conducted throughout South Korea throughout the year, to include civil defense drills normally held eight (8) times a year.  U.S. citizens should stay informed through local media about upcoming military exercises and civil defense drills that sometimes occur at short notice and for which the Embassy will not routinely provide advance notification.  The Embassy continues to closely monitor the current situation.  Should the security situation change, the Embassy will update this warden message. 

U.S. citizens living or traveling in South Korea are reminded of the importance of enrolling with the Embassy through the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment System (STEP) website: .  U.S. citizens without internet access may register in person at the U.S. Embassy.  Enrollment is a voluntary way of telling us that you, as a U.S. citizen, are in Korea, whether for a long-term stay or for a short visit.  In the event of an emergency, we use enrollment information to communicate with you.  This could include a family emergency in which relatives in the United States request that the Embassy contact you. 

For the latest security information worldwide, U.S. citizens should regularly monitor the State Department’s website at where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found.  Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the Unites States, or, for callers from outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).  

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