By Cpl. Kim Hyung-joon, USAG Yongsan Public AffairsNovember 24, 2010
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea -- Following the North Korean attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island Tuesday afternoon, people around the world were looking for answers to what would come next. Garrison Yongsan's community members were no different, turning once more to the Garrison's popular social media site.
With almost 5,500 fans, Yongsan's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/youryongsan) has quickly become a primary source for near real-time emergency updates, from the historic snowfall earlier this year to Typhoon Kompasu and September's 100-year flood.
The latest hostilities from North Korea have been no different.
"Our aim is to get ahead of the information demand curve and act quickly to stomp out misinformation and rumors," said U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan Public Affairs Chief Dan Thompson. "Since this isolated incident occurred, we have been able to answer concerns regarding service disruptions, overall safety and rumors such as the Incheon Airport being closed - which it is not."
As has been the practice in past emergencies this year, Yongsan Public Affairs acts quickly to link the public with decision-makers in near real-time so that the public understands that leaders have many of the same concerns they do, and that they are working to resolve them. Sometimes Yongsan PAO shows the decision-making process in instantly posted photographs or even near-live video postings.
"Transparency is really key," said Thompson. "We are taking official statements provided by U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Walter Sharp and sharing those instantly with community members, as well as sharing links provided by the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, which helps build confidence when people need it most."
The community response has been positive overall, with many remaining cautiously optimistic while sharing advice and offering support.
"(I) can always count on (Yongsan Facebook) for the latest information. Thank you," posted Yongsan Facebook user Wolly Gentillon shortly after receiving word about the North Korean attack.
His sentiments were echoed dozens of times on the social media site.
"I've said this a dozen times, but this page is so wonderful! Thank you for the update!" posted Cami Beaudry.
Thompson says that many people visit the Yong Facebook page as soon as they are in doubt about an issue like the North Korean attack, making PAO's task in managing expectations very important.
"Using a combination of American Forces Network radio, television, official channels and social media, we are able to anticipate community concerns and provide information that reassures them, or provide warnings when appropriate. The public knows that, and that is why they are making our social media their first choice more often. It is a two-way conversation for all to see."
Not revealing too much is also important, he said.
"We are very careful with Operational Security (OPSEC) and remain mindful that anyone out there, friend or foe, could be watching," he said. "Luckily, the vast majority of our fans understand OPSEC, and heed our frequent reminders."
While the holidays are generally a time to unwind for many, Garrison Yongsan is poised to fully support USFK and provide community services during this uncertain time.
"Korea is a great place to live," said Garrison Commander Col. Bill Huber, Wednesday morning. "The quality of life and peacefulness we enjoy here is really extraordinary. We know there is a threat to the north, and there has been for 60 years now, but we also know our alliance with South Korea is stronger than ever. Our focus is on serving our community members supporting that alliance."
For now, social media will be a key part in serving the community by providing timely and accurate information they can trust.