Utilizing the Internet during US - S. Korea military exercises
Dec. 6, 2010
by Mark Ollig

The USS George Washington (CVN 73) arrived off the coast of South Korea a couple of weeks ago to participate in Naval drill exercises in the Yellow Sea.

With the drill taking place close to North Korea, one could expect some tension.

I did what many folks do; I looked to the mainstream media for updated news and information.

When I turned on the television, I was surprised by the lack of any real-time coverage of this event as it unfolded.

So, on the evening of Nov. 27, I instead turned to the Internet.

Using http://hashtags.org, I was able to follow the Twitter hashtag’s being used, which relayed messages about the Naval drill and the events taking place.

I then spent the next 30 minutes filtering out the many repetitive messages.

Most Twitter users were merely repeating or “re-tweeting” the same thing to each other.

There wasn’t any current news up to this point.

Then, one message (sandwiched in-between the repetitive stream) appeared, which stood out uniquely from the others.

The message came from a source who was actually reporting the events as they were happening in South Korea.

The posted message read, “We’ve now got reliable info that both surface-to-surface & surface-to-air missiles being readied in N. Korea on the west coast.”

This communication read like it was being reported from a news war correspondent in the field.

The Twitter’s user name was @W7VOA.

W7VOA is actually Steven L. Herman, who is the Voice of America (VOA) Bureau Chief/Correspondent covering the Korean peninsula and Japan.

Herman was also a print and broadcast reporter and editor with the Associated Press.

He is currently based on the scene in Seoul South Korea.

Herman’s personal web link, where his direct posts are being sent to, can be seen scrolling in real-time at http://tvtokyo.com/steve.html.

Late that night, Nov. 27, a message posted from W7VOA read “AFP photographer on Yeonpyeong says anyone still there ordered to take shelter in bunkers.”

Later, W7VOA sent this report via his Blackberry, “Ministry tells all journalists remaining on Yeonpyeong to evacuate island by taking 1900KST ferry to Incheon.”

Another reporter named Sam Kim, who was covering North Korea, sent messages under the user name @egalite_twitted. He posted fresh new pictures of the USS George Washington upon its arrival at http://ow.ly/3gzHm.

This reporter works for Seoul’s Yonhap news outlet, their website is http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr.

“Wish I could see inside South Korea right now,” I thought.

I opened another tab in my web browser to search for any live webcams (video camera’s transmitting live images over the Internet) originating from South Korea.

It was 10 o’clock at night here, which meant it was 1 o’clock in the afternoon and still daylight in South Korea.

A South Korean website map showed the locations of 13 webcams.

I clicked on the link of the webcam located in the most northern section of South Korea and closest to North Korea.

This website, originating from South Korea, appears in Korean text; however, at the top of the web page I saw an “ENG” translations icon, thus saving yours truly from having to learn the Korean language.

The most northern webcam was called “Sunrise of Han River.”

Clicking this link opened the sites webcam online video player.

Soon, I was watching in real-time, outdoor events occurring in this part of South Korea.

The webcam is physically located in Haneul Park, which is right along the Hangang River.

This is the website’s description of the webcam’s location, “Haneul Park is a grass park that is the nearest to the sky settled in the 2nd Nanjido reclaimed land, having a wonderful look of Seoul at one sight.”

“Especially here you could see Seoul at one sight, those are Buchanan to the north, Namsan and 63 Building to the south, and Hangjusanseong to the west,” the translated text on the webpage explained.

This particular webcam automatically pans slowly back and forth, showing almost a full panoramic view of the surrounding area.

One could see brush and grass gently swaying in a light breeze along the countryside and in the background were several rolling hills underneath a blue sky.

The webcam showed the Sungsan Grand Bridge, buildings, and highways with cars traveling along them unimpeded.

When I checked this webcam during the night, thousands of individual dots of light emanating from building windows were clearly visible.

Seoul is to the southeast, and Incheon is to the southwest of this webcam’s location.

The link I used to find the webcam is http://livecam.seoul.go.kr.

In the morning, Nov. 29, W7VOA messaged, “Pentagon now confirms there will be “live fire” exercises as part of the US-ROK naval drill in Yellow Sea.”

Nov. 30 W7VOA reported ,“Gen. Sharp, the USFK commander, says “situation is calmer,” but will continue to keep all informed.”

Using the Internet, I was able to view in real-time a northern geographical location in South Korea, while receiving up-to-the-minute messages sent out by news correspondents based inside South Korea.

All of us have the means to go online and independently learn about (or report on) late-breaking news events as they happen.

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