Sirens wailed on Wednesday as South Korea held its first nationwide air defence drills in six years to counter North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats, but many people appeared to ignore calls to seek shelter.The drills are a key element of the annual Ulchi civil defence exercises, held alongside the Ulchi Freedom Shield drills, which South Korean and U.S. troops began on Monday, to improve responses to a North Korean attack or other contingencies.Air-raid sirens blared at 2 p.m. (0500 GMT) on a rainy but hot summer afternoon in downtown Seoul. Community leaders in yellow jackets and hats with the “Civil Defence” logo asked people to get off the streets for about 15 minutes before the alert was eased.But many pedestrians did not pay heed to those requests or rush to find designated shelters or nearby underground spaces.

“I didn’t know about the drill. And people don’t seem to care about it much. I don’t believe there will be an actual war either,” Na Eun, a 52-year-old architectural designer told Reuters.Park Joo-ui, a community leader of the Jongno district in Seoul who passed out leaflets to notify the drill said he was baffled by public indifference.”How can we be prepared for crisis when we don’t get support from our people during this drill? People are just not interested,” the 69-year-old said.Drivers in about 200 areas nationwide had been told to pull to the side of the road. People in nearly 500 supermarkets, movie theatres and other public facilities were guided to evacuate, according to the interior ministry.

 

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