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"What to do when the shells hit Seoul"
December 11, 2010 4:12 PM   Subscribe

"A general rule of thumb: Go underground to avoid artillery and conventional bombing runs, but go up as high as possible in a chemical weapons attack." A major South Korean newspaper reports on what to do in the case of North Korean attack and the state of evacuation shelters in Seoul.

In the case of conventional attack, "the best places to duck for cover are subway stations, apartment basements, and basements of other structures - in that order." Seoul has 4,000 shelters, which have been scored on a 1-4 grading system, with 1 being the most protective. Subway stations as well as apartment building basements are "grade 2" evacuation shelters, while basements of commercial buildings are rated "grade 3". Of note: "There are no public 'grade 1' shelters that can withstand a chemical, biological or nuclear attack in the capital."

Meanwhile, the U.S. military's Stars and Stripes provides USFK evacuation information. This PDF provides information on NonCombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO), including who is eligible for evacuation and what evacuees should pack. There also videos of NEO exercises. (Stars and Stripes link via The Marmot's Hole)
posted by needled (28 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seoul has 4,000 shelters, which have been scored on a 1-4 grading system..

Maybe the new trade agreement will let them import our color-coded threat chart.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:17 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you want color-coded charts, here's one from the ROK National Disaster Information Center. Except it has nothing to do with terrorism, the numbers are predictions of the most probable type of accident or man-made or natural disaster for that week based on 119 call history (that's what you dial in Korea instead of 911).

Looks like this week fires are the main concern all over South Korea.
posted by needled at 4:32 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of note: "There are no public 'grade 1' shelters that can withstand a chemical, biological or nuclear attack in the capital."

I've noticed some people raising eyebrows at this. I don't think it's really an uncommon situation. For chem and biological attack protection, you are going to need an expensive filtration system in every shelter, one that's prone to breakdowns. Why not just let people have their own personal kit? Better that than having groups of hundreds of people all relying on a single, complex filter system.

And public shelters for withstanding nuclear attacks...geez, how many of those could they really build and maintain? I'm sure somebody did the math there too. It's a lot of spending. Somebody wants to do those on a personal level, fine. Otherwise it's a lot of funds potentially thrown down the drain.

South Korea's infrastructure might be maintained with a pretty optimistic mindset, but history seems to indicate that they're in a good position to do so.
posted by circular at 4:39 PM on December 11, 2010


So what do you do if they mix up their attack with conventional shells and gas-filled ones?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:55 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'k positive that North Korea WILL NOT attack South Korea without strong support from China, without China's vast army and weapons, they know that they can only push and shove a bit and avoid full scale invasion of South Korea and then suceed.
posted by tustinrick at 4:58 PM on December 11, 2010


So what do you do if they mix up their attack with conventional shells and gas-filled ones?

It wouldn't matter. You can't tell what kind they are until they hit (although I'm sure you can predict them somewhat -- intelligence might be able to tell you if the units known to be armed with chemical weapons are doing the firing).

But the gas warnings will happen upon observation, reports or detection.

I doubt there would ever be gas attacks, though. Chemical weapons are great for saber-rattling, but not in the field. Moreover, while the NK leadership may be crazy, the front-line command isn't stupid. They're unlikely to do something that would get them nuked personally.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:09 PM on December 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'k positive that North Korea WILL NOT attack South Korea without strong support from China...

Yeah, but would you stake your life on it?
posted by Ritchie at 7:25 PM on December 11, 2010


Very happy to be living in Daegu these days instead of Seoul.

But I don't think there will be a large-scale North Korean attack.

Continued smaller-scale provocations? Definitely.

You've got 25 million people in Seoul alone before you start counting the extensive 'burbs and newer cities. It's not like they can all head down south and check in to a Holiday Inn.

And both sides know this.
posted by bardic at 7:36 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ritchie, I am. The first news was a rude awakening to the daydream I was having on Thailand's wonderful Ko Chang Island. It was a hard decision to make, but I decided to come back to South Korea the day following the attack. It may be risky, but I'm trying to look at the situation rationally instead of being consumed by the hype. My actions show that I am someone who is convinced that Korea is relatively safe; however, I do have the awareness that I could be misjudging an unstable situation. The only thing I can do is make educated guesses based on the induction of the past and compare it to the stream of incoming local and international news.

The way I see it, is that I'm more likely to die in a car accident or other unpredictable demise than I am to die in a North Korean attack. Also, dying in a North Korean attack looks much better in my life narrative.
posted by Knigel at 8:13 PM on December 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


The North Korean regime is in it's last few months. I predict things will end like they did in Romania with the dictator up against the wall.
posted by humanfont at 8:45 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


"These are the signs of Sonic Attack..."
posted by ovvl at 8:49 PM on December 11, 2010


I predict things will end like they did in Romania with the dictator up against the wall.

And then what?
posted by blucevalo at 9:07 PM on December 11, 2010


I'm going to go clean out the vending machines at my subway. I'm going to become King of the Seoul Underground!
posted by GilloD at 9:20 PM on December 11, 2010


The North Korean regime is in it's last few months.

A serious possibility, but still under 50% likelihood.

Historically, we've never had a dictator in his final days decide "fuck it all, if I'm going, I'm taking out as much of the rest of the world as I can." Kim Jung Il might warm to the idea of being the first, and he could do significant damage. But that would depend on his awareness that he is 'on his way out' which he may not be capable of, not to mention having enough underlings willing to join his suicide pact to execute the orders. Two big factors that keep that scenario under a 50% likelihood. Of course, the fact that there is an ANY% likelihood is shityourpants scary.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:26 PM on December 11, 2010


I really hope that the North doesn't start shelling the South, because I have no idea how the South would be able to stop the shelling in anything approaching a reasonable amount of time. As I understand it, the North has thousands of dug-in artillery pieces. It's not like a few smart bombs can take care of everything, and I don't think the South has artillery to match. The US used to have deployed tactical nuclear weapons, but Bush 41 withdrew them, in what I think was probably his biggest strategic error - it shifted the balance of power to the North, because there is now no way for the South and US to remove the North Korean regime militarily without the North first inflicting unacceptably high civilian casualties on Seoul.

Now, I doubt very much that there will be a war, because the leadership of the North knows it's suicide, but there might well be circumstances in which the US decides that the North's proliferation of nuclear and missile technology is too much of a threat, and now they've lost the ability to remove that threat at a cost acceptable to the South. Really dumb move.
posted by Dasein at 9:57 PM on December 11, 2010


First, nukes aren't instant. Even if the US still had them deployed in SK, there's still time needed to bring them online, arm them, and launch them, plus flight time to target. And I could be wrong (and correct me if I am) but nukes would require an order from the president, which may take time to get. However, don't think that, just because they aren't deployed in country, the US could not get nukes there pretty damn quickly. There are plenty of ways to do so, particularly with the Navy in the vicinity. If nukes are a part of any battle plan with North Korea, you can pretty well figure that the warheads are already targeted.

If NK did decide to attack, though, it wouldn't matter whether or not China was supporting them (and I'm inclined to think that they wouldn't) because the end result would be the same. There wouldn't be a North Korean state within a couple of days after they started a war. They'd lose. We know it. They know it. Them knowing it's suicide is why they haven't started it. Us knowing the cost to Seoul is why we haven't started it. It's a very ugly detente, but we can only hope that somehow it holds long enough that a peaceful solution emerges.
posted by azpenguin at 10:35 PM on December 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


> If nukes are a part of any battle plan with North Korea, you can pretty well figure that the warheads are already targeted.


I have zero inside information about US strategic nuclear targeting, but I'd bet money that every active Trident-class sub has at least one MIRV-tipped ICBM dedicated to the DPRK.

Anyway, I don't think that the regime is going to fall anytime soon. They know that what they need to do is pop off a successful nuke test that they can show off to the rest of the world, while keeping up the low level sabre rattling and border disputes. Once they get their test, they will be able to negotiate a much more favorable aid package from the rest of the six party nations, in addition to workarounds for the UN trade sanctions. At the least, Kim-Jong-Un will be able to oversee the DPRK for the foreseeable future. Most likely, his reign will largely be a co-sharing with a military junta of generals who have a vested material interest in keeping the current system going.

The above is obvious speculation, but that's about all anyone outside the DPRK is really able to do.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:49 PM on December 11, 2010


Pardon, Ohio-class, not Trident-Class.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:50 PM on December 11, 2010


I wonder if there are betting sites that would have odds on a war actually happening. (paddypower does just sports and I wouldn't know where else to look but the cynic in me would like to at least know.)
posted by krautland at 11:01 PM on December 11, 2010


Of course Kim Jong-Il is on his way out, and Kim Jong-Woon is on his way in. It doesn't matter how many mistakes the Kims make, though. Their control is so absolute, and so many layers of unquestionable, that I don't see how any revolution from within is even remotely conceivable. Even if people are annoyed, even if they are dying, there is still no substantial threat to the Kim dynasty.

China doesn't care for Kim, but doesn't want war. The South doesn't want war. The US doesn't want war. The Dear Leader is holding the whole deck. As long as he continues to offend the world just less than enough to provoke large-scale mutual bloodshed, things will remain as they are. Weirdly, I wonder if I should hope that he mistakenly kills more people than he can get away with one of these days.
posted by Xezlec at 11:43 PM on December 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I could conceivably see a coup by the military though. It's one thing to overthrow Jong-Il; but during a transition to Kim Jong-un hardly anybody ever heard of until a few months ago, who looks like he's even more nuts than his dad?

Now, whether some form of military junta would be more or less scary than the Kims is another question.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:28 AM on December 12, 2010


With regards the nukes being withdrawn - there's no way there'd be a quick nuke response anyway. Can you imagine the chinese or russian response to unannounced nuclear missiles heading in their direction from south korea? Both of their borders aren't exactly far from north korea.

No, any nuclear strike would have to be well discussed in advance between the 3 major powers at least. Maybe sub launched, or stealth bombers with nuke tipped bombs, but it's going to be a good while before authorisation is given. Either way, Seoul is going to get shelled to pieces first. That shelling Seoul would result in the end of the Kim regime by Chinese or US invasion, and/or getting nuked is precisely why they haven't done it. And that Seoul is hostage to north Korean artillery is why the US can't do anything pre-emptive about the north.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:43 AM on December 12, 2010


I wonder if there are betting sites that would have odds on a war actually happening.

On Intrade, go to North Korea under "current events".
posted by various at 4:09 AM on December 12, 2010


Historically, we've never had a dictator in his final days decide "fuck it all, if I'm going, I'm taking out as much of the rest of the world as I can.

It is one thing to give the order to take everyone with you and quite another the get others to follow it. I think there are a number of ways it this regime could end. An officers coup orchestrated by china, an internal officers coup, bread riots leading to open revolt in a key city, a surprise external attack following the next provocation, or even just collapse of central authority as a result of the succession crisis.
posted by humanfont at 5:05 AM on December 12, 2010


With regards the nukes being withdrawn - there's no way there'd be a quick nuke response anyway. Can you imagine the chinese or russian response to unannounced nuclear missiles heading in their direction from south korea?

You're misunderstanding - we're talking about nuclear artillery and short-range missiles here, nothing that would set off alarms in China or Russia (well, not in terms of a threat to them, anyway). That's the point of tactical nukes - they're in theatre, ready to go, just send the authorization. It's certainly true that you'd need presidential authorization, but I imagine that could be obtained fairly quickly if thousands of artillery pieces were shelling Seoul.
posted by Dasein at 10:05 PM on December 12, 2010


Weirdly, I wonder if I should hope that he mistakenly kills more people than he can get away with one of these days.

I think that's the main concern over North Korea: that they escalate the situation just enough to provoke a face-saving retaliatory strike from the South, which results in tit-for-tat exchanges that culminate in an invasion or all-out artillery barrage from one side or the other. When you have a belligerent North and increasingly hard-line domestic politics in the South, at some point something will have to give. Historically, most wars have started due to a miscalculation by one side; I fear the same thing could spark a resumption of hostilities in Korea as well.
posted by armage at 3:49 AM on December 13, 2010


So what do you do if they mix up their attack with conventional shells and gas-filled ones?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:55 PM on December 11 [1 favorite +] [!]

If the government has issued gas masks, you don them, head underground, and think happy thoughts. If not - well, you very possibly die. And North Korean shelling probably *would* include both chemical and conventional shells, assuming the regime has chemical weapons at all. Combined-arms tactics are ancient - no one with sense wages war with just *one* weapon. You attack with several weapons systems, such that any counter your enemy might have to one exposes him to devestation from another.

"I doubt there would ever be gas attacks, though. Chemical weapons are great for saber-rattling, but not in the field. Moreover, while the NK leadership may be crazy, the front-line command isn't stupid. They're unlikely to do something that would get them nuked personally.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:09 PM on December 11 [2 favorites +] [!] "

Chemical weapons don't do much good against soldiers - though they do slow them down, because they're forced to don protective gear that impairs movement and peripheral vision. It's not dissimilar to the effect of bad weather. But chemical weapons can be quite effective against unprepared civilians, especially if panic drives them out of shelters perceived as vulnerable to gas - and into areas vulnerable to conventional explosives.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 7:48 AM on December 13, 2010


I'm leaving soon, but back again in February....my mom will be happy for a few months off of worrying a lot of South Korea Mefites....meetup in the spring?
posted by nile_red at 7:04 AM on December 15, 2010


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