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A Parent Watches as North and South Korea Exchange Fire

north korea bombs south korea, kim jong il

A South Korean couple watches a television report on the conflict in a Seoul bus terminal.

At 7:40 this morning, I helped my wife load our crew into her car before kissing each of them on his or her forehead and sending them along their merry way. At 7:41, I sat in shock as I watched TV coverage which showed plumes of black smoke coming from South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, only to learn that it had resulted from North Korean artillery. The attack killed two soldiers and injured 15 more. Three civilians were also wounded.

The attack comes during a time of tension in an area that has been historically high strung to begin with. Kim Jong II’s recent announced that his son, Kim Jong Un, will be his heir apparent, coupled with North Korea’s claim of a new uranium enrichment facility seemingly set the table for this most recent conflict.

As I read about the attack and counter-attack online at The New York Times, I kept thinking of the happy carload of kids making its way to school that had just left my house. Such innocence, when juxtaposed with the complicated and violent affairs of the world serves as an important, if not eerie reminder of just how little control parents actually have in the grand scheme of things.

My wife and I constantly worry about matters such as childhood obesity, bullying, and the adverse effects of video games. Yet these are all things over which we have at least some control. Sure, we may not have as much as we’d like over a random kid picking on our 9 year-old. But we can guide her through any such episode. We can offer her advice. There are any number of things which we can do that might actually help.

As I sat at my kitchen table and watched coverage of the dispute in Korea, I felt an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. Quite literally, there is nothing I can do, that virtually any of us can do, as we watch an age-old dispute unveil its newest skirmish right before our very eyes. With various super-powers involved on either side, who knows what could happen? I certainly don’t.

But I do know this. No one has ever wanted the world to be at war. Yet it’s happened two times. And every time a scary episode like this rears its ugly head, I can’t help but wonder if it’s possible that we could be inching ever closer toward a third.

My wife and I constantly read up on different parenting techniques, picking and choosing elements of each in hopes of finding the combination that will work best for us — for our four children — as we strive to give them the tools they’ll need for success in the future.

But this morning, North and South Korea reminded me that I have far less control over the future than I’d like to think.

Picture: AFP

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