Amy is the head of news for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Spectre of war looms over Tauranga

Koreans in Tauranga are worried about family in their homeland and are hoping North Korea does not go through with its threats.

Tauranga resident Rachel Kim said she feared for the safety of her family and was following the situation closely.

The 27-year-old left her family in Korea and moved to New Zealand to study English in 2006. "It's really not good. All my family live in Korea so that's why I'm really worried about it. If they start a war everything is gone because they have nuclear [weapons]."

Ms Kim's mother, father, brother and extended family still live and work in Andong, a small village about four hours south-east of Seoul, and could not join her in New Zealand, she said.

"They said it's alright but everything is changing."

Ms Kim said it was hard to know what to think as the situation was changing daily.

North Korea had made threats before but that did little to allay fears, she said. "Everybody's worried about it. It's really scary."

Otumoetai College student Polly Baek said she did not think war would break out, but she still worried about her father and grandparents in Korea. "I asked my dad, 'Do you think this war is going to happen?' and he said, 'No, not really'."

The 16-year-old moved to New Zealand with her mother and cousin six years ago.

"We know that it is really serious right now, but we don't have much information about it through the Korean news."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said there were 971 New Zealanders registered as being in South Korea and three in North Korea. The ministry said there was no specific threat to New Zealanders in South Korea.

North Korea yesterday said the Korean peninsula was headed for "thermo-nuclear" war and it did not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula

  • The Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula still technically at war.

  • In December, North Korea launched a satellite into space on a rocket that Washington and others called a cover for a long-range missile test.

  • In February, the North followed with an underground nuclear test, a step towards mastering the technology for mounting an atomic bomb on a missile.

  • Subsequent tightened UN sanctions drew the ire of North Korea, which accused Washington and Seoul of leading the campaign against it.

  • Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un enshrined the pursuit of nuclear weapons as a national goal. North Korea declared it would restart a mothballed nuclear complex.

  • Yesterday North Korea urged foreign companies and tourists in South Korea to evacuate, saying the two countries are on the verge of a nuclear war.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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