My goal to learn something new every day
Since starting this blog almost a week ago, I’ve constantly been on the lookout for new things to learn about. So today’s post is about something I’ve probably seen every day for the last 7 years. It appears on the side of buildings, at subway station entrances and even at the top of the ramp to the parking lot in my apartment complex. I’d never given it much thought until today, it was just part of the landscape.
I’m talking about a red sign with a white circle that has what appears to be a house with three different coloured roofs.
To me, it kind of looks like the sign you might see on the outside of a hotel or restaurant to show that it is part of some sort of tourist association.
As it turns out, the Korean writing at the bottom of the sign (대피소 Daepiso) translates into shelter. A quick Google search of the Korean term brought up this Korean website. A brief description on the site says (with translation courtesy of Google translate):
비상시에 대피할 수 있도록 만들어 놓은 곳.
Where had made to evacuate in an emergency.
And a little further down the page this:
적의 무력침공이나 자연재난으로부터 국민의 생명과 재산을 지키기 위해 구성된 일련의 조직적인 민간 방위 활동.
Enemy armed invasion or a series of organized civil defense activities configured to protect the lives and property of citizens from natural disasters
So the sign designates a shelter that is meant to be used during an invasion, civil defense drill* or natural disaster. As the Western media are always quick to point out whenever North Korea threatens to do something, the Korean war ended with an armistice agreement and not a peace treaty, which means the two Koreas are still technically at war.
While most Koreans generally ignore the rhetoric coming from the North, there have been a couple of incidents in the time that I’ve been here, including the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on November 23 2010. It is around this time that a few articles popped up on the internet about these shelters.
According to this one on freerepublic.com, there are around 25,000 such shelters across South Korea. And this article from NDTV.com says that people should be able to reach a shelter within 5 minutes.
The National Emergency Management Agency of Korea has even made an app called ‘for foreigners Emergency Ready App’, which you can read more about in this pdf. The app allows users to search for the nearest shelter, and call 119 (the Korean emergency number) ‘without delay’, although I imagine that dialling 119 would be quicker than starting up the app and navigating to the call button.
While I don’t expect the North to ever do anything, at least I’ll know where to go now 😉 Although I’m not sure how safe the underground parking lot where I live would be, it’s barely one floor below ground and totally open at the entrance.
*Civil defense drills happen 8 times a year, and are when all traffic is supposed to stop, and people are supposed to stay inside until the end of the drill.