Civil Defense Drill in Seoul

Waiting for the all clear during a civil defense drill in Seoul, South Korea (photo: Patrick Lydon)

Waiting for the all clear during a civil defense drill in Seoul, South Korea (photo: Patrick Lydon)

It’s a particularly windy afternoon in Seoul, but other than that very sunny, pleasant, and bustling with activity along the streets and along the sidewalks.

Suddenly, undulating along with the steady gusts of wind, a long and deep siren sounds. It’s the kind of sound you can’t quite place at first, but for some reason or another it’s ominous to you. Then, high-pitched whistles blow, and you notice for the first time, the ladies in khaki shirts, bright orange construction wands in hand as they wave people into underground fallout shelters. For 20 minutes, the streets fall silent, until the long deep siren sounds again and slowly, a graceful accelerando brings the streets back to their standard 2-o’clock bustle.

I experienced my first “civil defense” drill today.

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