SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — When North Korea makes a threat, the government in Seoul usually vents its anger while South Koreans mostly shrug off what can seem like a daily barrage of hostility.
President Donald Trump has introduced a new wrinkle to this familiar pattern. His recent Pyongyang-style threat to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea has been met with silence from the top levels of South Korea’s government — and worry, sometimes anger, from the country’s citizens.
It highlights an interesting feature of South Korea, a strong U.S. ally, trading partner and fellow democracy where there can seem to be as much, maybe more, worry about Trump’s unpredictable style of leadership as there is about archrival North Korea.
Many South Koreans ignore Pyongyang because they have lived with near-constant North Korean belligerence, and sometimes violence, since the Korean Peninsula was divided in 1945 and the two countries fought a bloody, three-year war five years later.
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The government in Seoul, however, is far from indifferent to its northern neighbor.
When North Korea on Thursday repeated a threat against Guam, saying it was working on a plan to launch missiles into the waters near the U.S. territory, Roh Jae-cheon, spokesman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared on TV to declare that Seoul and Washington were prepared to “immediately and sternly punish” any provocation by the North.
Contrast that with the official silence out of Seoul after Trump’s comments on Tuesday, which seemed to take a page out of the North Korean playbook by warning of “fire and fury” if the North didn’t stop threatening the United States.
South Korean citizens and the media have been less shy about ripping into both Trump, for his threat, and the government of President Moon Jae-in, for not taking the U.S. president to task for evoking a potential war that would likely result in tens of thousands of Korean deaths.
“Doesn’t the Moon Jae-in government have to say something about Trump’s over-the-line comments?” Jang Shin-ki, a 42-year-old man who lives in Seoul, wrote on Facebook.
There are feelings of bewilderment and powerlessness: Why should South Korea get sucked into a crisis created by a war of words between leaders in Washington and Pyongyang?
“Moon has talked about how South Korea should be in the driver’s seat when it comes…