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“People from my father’s generation say the reason there isn’t a war right now is because the U.S. military is here,” she said.

Others are more outwardly skeptical. They said the escalation of tensions has them questioning the presence of so many U.S. troops in South Korea after so many years.

“In general, people think the U.S. military is trying to keep us safe,” said Ji Yong-lim, a 37-year-old who works at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents Club. “But I’m sometimes dubious of their agenda and wonder if the reason they’re here is to take advantage of the situation.”

Ms. Ji suggested that it may even benefit Washington to keep tensions high on the Korean Peninsula. Doing so, she said, justifies the ongoing need for a heavy U.S. troop presence while bolstering the market for American-made weapons.

“Maybe their agenda is to sell weapons to South Korea,” she said, adding that if North and South Korea were to “become allies and have a stable relationship, I don’t think it will benefit the United States.”

• Hana Jang contributed to this report.