On March 30, three days after North Korea severed a military hotline with the South and announced that South Korean President Park Geun Hye "will meet a miserable ruin," the country declared a state of war. "The time has come to stage a do-or-die final battle," an official statement said.

Meanwhile, many of South Korea's youth were worried about something else. A 25-year-old pop star named Seo In Guk had appeared on a popular reality TV show the night before and, in a misstep that quickly dominated online conversations, had washed his strawberries incorrectly. Ilbe, a conservative Web forum — a place you might expect to find a nationalist screed — was preoccupied with a month-old debate on regional differences in how to eat sweet and sour pork.

Pop stars, bourgeois lifestyle commentary and funny videos often seem to interest young South Koreans more than Pyongyang's latest provocation. North Korea may be trying to intimidate its neighbor but in many ways, particularly on economic and cultural fronts that increasingly matter, South Korea has already won the fight.