Asia teaching-abroad travel

Earthquakes in Korea

12/07/2020

South Korea typically has pretty stable weather, and natural occurring disasters are rare, ( aside from flooding). Korea is a part of the ring of fire, but has less earthquake activity than its neighbors Japan, and China. In fact, Japan usually gets the brunt of typhoons, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Typhoons are common in Korea, but on the whole aren’t as strong as in other countries. I’ve actually had to work a half day during a typhoon once, students had the day, off but teachers were still required to go.

I was sitting in my apartment one early evening, when I heard a door outside slam shut really loudly. That was not uncommon for my apartment building, so I thought nothing of it. Then I noticed that my TV, and fan were swaying, I looked at the walls, and they somehow were also moving! I stood up, and sat down in disbelief as the realization that an earthquake was happening slowly dawned upon me. Being a native Floridian, this was a very surreal experience! The rocking didn’t last long, and once it stopped, I got up and looked out of the kitchen window to see if anyone outside felt it. The only person I saw at the time was an elderly woman, who was walking around as if nothing happened.

I closed the window, and did the next best thing, got onto social media, and started texting friends to see if they’d felt it. I soon found out that what happened was an earthquake hit a city about 90 minutes away, and was also felt where I lived. The next day at school, many teachers were freaked out over the earthquake. “We never get earthquakes”, one of my co-teachers said. We had three more after that one. According to earthquakes.zone/southkorea, there were a total of six earthquakes while I lived in Korea, although I only felt four. The epicenter of the four I felt was in/around the same city. Two of those happened on the same night, less than an hour apart.

What I had found funny, was that the general public seemed more visibly concerned about the earthquake than North Korean threats. It was the talk of the town for a short bit. I remember that same co-teacher lived in a high rise apartment, on one of the upper floors, and talked about how freaky it was to feel the building sway a bit. There are high rises all over South Korea, so I don’t want to know what would happen if a high level earthquake, or typhoon hit the country.

Northern area of Busan

My little studio apartment was on the third of four floors. I always kind of questioned the structural integrity of the building, so when the earthquakes happened, it was not a peaceful time for me. The earthquakes always hit in the evening when I was at home alone, and mostly on a Monday. I only had a few months left in Korea, and prayed that the earth wouldn’t swallow me whole before I got to see my family again. My Californian friends were unfazed. “It’s the earth’s way of stretching. It’s better to have little stretches, than one big one.” I get it, but I’m good. I’ll take my chances with hurricanes, and gators.

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