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After years, South Koreans worry about North: food sales up, civil drills expanded

From Reuters - August 11, 2017

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Koreans are buying more ready to eat meals and the government plans to expand nation-wide civil defense drills planned for this month as rhetoric between North Korea and the United States ramps up tension.

Long used to living within the range of North Korea's artillery, people in the South have generally ignored its aggressiveness and series of nuclear and long-range missile tests.

But this week, as Pyongyang exchanged increasingly angry words with the United States, there are worries of a clash erupting along the heavily militarized frontier which divides the two Koreas.

Combat Ration Inc, which makes 2 billion won ($1.75 million)of annual revenue selling ready to eat meals, said sales had surged as much as 50 percent in the past week compared to the average.

"Since 2006, when North Korea first conducted its nuclear test, there was not this much response as people became immune to frequent missile launches and nuclear tests," said Yoon Hee-yeul, the chief executive of Combat Ration, based in the southeastern city of Daegu.

"I feel it's different this time," said Yoon, who's been in the business since 2004.

Ready to eat meals maker Babmart, based in eastern Seoul, and another Seoul-based online seller, jun2food.com, also said sales have increased. Officials at both companies attributed the surge to the heightened tension.

North Korea said on Thursday its army would complete plans in mid-August to fire four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

U.S. President Donald Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was not going to get away with his "horrific" comments and disrespecting America.

Experts say if North Korea did launch intermediate-range missiles toward Guam, all its other missiles and artillery would be ready for action. Hundreds of thousands of troops and huge arsenals are arrayed on both sides of the tense demilitarized zone between the two Koreas.

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