War does not frighten Quebecers in Korea

Quebecois expatriates in Seoul have been quietly living their lives for years despite Pyongyang’s new threats against South Korea.

“Honestly, it is business as usual Nobody talks about it here, explains Sherbrooke-born Simon Bureau, who has lived in South Korea for 22 years. Of course it makes headlines, but on a day-to-day basis, people live normally. I often go to restaurants or bars and I don’t see any special protocol on the streets. »

Simon Bureau from Sherbrooke moved to Seoul 22 years ago.

Courtesy photo

Simon Bureau from Sherbrooke moved to Seoul 22 years ago.

Same story with Ariane Desgagnés-Leclerc, who lived in Seoul for 10 years.

Ariane Desgagnés-Leclerc loves her daily life in South Korea, where she has lived for ten years.

Courtesy photo

Ariane Desgagnés-Leclerc loves her daily life in South Korea, where she has lived for ten years.

A young woman from Rouyn-Noranda says: “In recent days, more is being said about the deadly Halloween mob than the provocations of North Korea.” The topic never comes up in discussions. »

Rising tensions

Diplomatic tensions between the two Koreas have escalated in recent weeks after a record series of 23 missile launches by Kim Jong Un’s regime, one of which landed in South Korea’s territorial waters. Seoul then immediately responded by launching three surface-to-air missiles near the inter-Korean sea border.

Pyongyang issued fresh threats to its southern neighbor on Monday, vowing a “sustained, robust and major” military response to joint US-South Korean military exercises a few days ago.

“Pyongyang’s systematic show of force following maneuvers between Washington and Seoul is nothing new,” says Simon Buro. When you’re away from Korea, you get the impression that war is inevitable, but no one there fears military escalation or a nuclear attack. »


Ariane Desgagnés-Leclerc admits she might have been worried when she arrived in Seoul 10 years ago, when tensions between the two countries were at their peak.

“I had just arrived and North Korea had fired a missile at a South Korean desert island, and I was scared,” says the 34-year-old Quebecer. But since then, provocations have become almost routine. We know these are just words, so the threat seems less credible. »

Valerie Pichet, who has lived here for seven years, seems less optimistic.

“The current president of South Korea has a very negative attitude towards the North, unlike the old president,” explains a young woman from Candiac. This is a shame, as much progress has been made in recent years to calm relations between the two countries. What we hope is that the situation does not degenerate further and unfortunately the population has no control over the situation. »

He was deceived by the dynamism of the country

Officially at war, South Korea remains exciting for many Quebec expats, who wouldn’t leave their beloved country for its dynamism for anything in the world.

Paul-Alexander Fournier, known as

Courtesy photo

Paul-Alexander Fournier, known as “Paulseul,” was a popular YouTuber in South Korea. In the photo, he is wearing a royal costume in a traditional cafe

“When I came here six years ago, I had a lot of fun because it’s 24 hours a day,” joked Montreal resident Paul Alexandre Fournier turned YouTuber in Korea.

“Seoul never sleeps,” confirms Ariane Desgagnés-Leclerc, who has lived in the capital for ten years. Regardless of the time, there is always something to do. »

Mr. Fortier with Olympic judokas Jun Ho Cho and Jun Hyun Cho.

Courtesy photo

Mr. Fortier with Olympic judokas Jun Ho Cho and Jun Hyun Cho.

“Koreans are impatient by nature, so everything is very fast,” he said. Everything works great, transport is super efficient. It’s a lifestyle that suits me very well. »

The quality of services was also highly appreciated by foreigners. “What surprises me is the efficiency of hospital care,” says Mr. Fournier. Here, in one day, you can be operated! »

Culture shock?

After learning the language, communication with South Koreans, described by foreigners as “interesting and open,” will be easy.

“What I like most is their generosity,” says Valérie Piche from Candiac. People are always looking to give a little something to those they care about without expecting anything in return. »

However, some cultural differences are sometimes felt.

“Korean men have to go into the military, and because I didn’t go into the military, there’s a gap,” Mr. Fournier explains.


Seoul is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with about 27 million people in the city area.

Ariane Desgagnés-Leclerc says: “We are always surrounded by so many people, it gives us the feeling of never being in our bubble.”

Even with its high concentration of population, South Korea remains a very safe country on a day-to-day basis.

“Despite the country’s status at war and tensions with the North, people feel safe here,” Paul Alexandre Fournier analyzes. He can walk on the street without fear. »

Experts were again divided over the tension

Could the recent rise in tension lead to war between the two Koreas? Experts are divided.

“Right now, South Korea is the most dangerous, not the other way around,” said Joseph-H. Chung, a Korean-Quebec professor of economics at UQAM. North Korea is simply on the defensive. If Seoul continues to be so belligerent, it could escalate into a full-scale war. »

According to Chung, the election of Yoon Seok-youl as South Korea’s president in May was a game-changer.

“He is a conservative president and very hostile to North Korea,” the expert explains. On the campaign trail, he ramped up provocations against Pyongyang, which partly explains the escalation in the past few days. »

Vigilant StormAt the end of October, the largest air operation between the United States and South Korea, with 240 fighter jets sent over the Korean peninsula, was considered a “provocation” by the North Korean regime, and 23 missiles were fired.

“Washington and Seoul are used to conducting joint air exercises, but this year they sent more aircraft than usual,” Chung said. For Pyongyang, this is perceived as a threat. »

Shuffle Cards Again

For his part, Loic Tasse, a political scientist and expert on Asia, judges that war between the two countries is “very unlikely” and believes that North Korea has “no rational reason” to attack the South from the front.

“There will be an immediate response from Washington and Seoul and North Korea will be destroyed within minutes. Especially since China, Pyongyang’s ally, hinted several years ago that it would not support Kim Jong Un’s regime if he made the first attack. »

“After the conflict in Ukraine, the cards have been changed, Mr. Chung. North Korea has strengthened its ties with China and Russia since the start of the war. This should not leave anyone optimistic. »

Last week, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby accused North Korea of ​​sending a “significant number” of missiles to Russia. Pyongyang denied the accusations through its news agency on Monday.

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