Passersby were likely alarmed on Wednesday when they spotted this silver BMW covered in rubble in Seoul, South Korea. Fire and smoke billowed from the open windows as firefighters rushed around trying to put out the flames. It looked like a terrorist attack, but it’s actually just a drill for one.
The scene Xinhua News Agency photographer Lee Sang-ho captured on August 23 is just one of the many anti-terrorism drills held in cities like Seoul and Goyang this week. Soldiers, firefighters and other law enforcement in full tactical gear respond to fake chemical attacks, bombings, and hostage situations. They rappel out of helicopters, inspect subway cars, confront armed terrorists and evacuate the wounded. Some drills take place in public — authorities requiring civilians to rush out of their offices or hurry into underground bunkers as sirens scream.
It’s associated with Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises, a sprawling 10-day event that’s taken place since 1976. The joint military operation brings together 50,000 South Korean troops, 17,500 US troops and members of the United Nations Command. While many of the details are kept secret, it does include “state-of-the-art wargaming computer simulations” according to the US government.
It’s all an effort to prep the country for an attack from North Korea, who considers the drills a provocation to war. For South Koreans, being prepared is a way of life.