Tuesday, July 06, 2004

It is Easy to March into the Streets, Burn Flags, and Throw Rocks in Protest When Your Country is Protected by the Strongest Military in the World

It is easy to march into the streets, burn flags, and throw rocks in protest when your country is protected by the strongest military in the world
writes a South Korean from Seoul.

While one Korean responds from Texas to the rage of a South Korean pacifist regarding Seoul's decision to back the American military in Iraq, another pens a long and thoughtful letter in the International Herald Tribune.

Although the main purpose of this weblog is anti-Americanism in France, it is my contention that anti-Americanism amounts to the same self-serving prattle, no matter what region of the globe it occurs in. Read E S Moon's letter and decide for yourself.

Ha-yun Jung's commentary Fighting America's wars (Views, July 1) underscores a pervasive anti-American sentiment that has gripped South Korea in recent years. While similar sentiments are seemingly sweeping the globe, it is curious that Korea, of all places, would be home to such fierce anti-Americanism.

America has been South Korea's strongest ally for the last half-century. When the author conveniently refers to the Vietnam War, she fails to mention the most relevant past conflict in the U.S.-Korea relationship: the Korean War. Any historical assessment of the U.S.-Korean relationship begins there — lest we forget the 44,000 American lives lost in the defense of the country. Moreover, when Ha-yun speaks of the freedoms and the economic prosperity that South Korea enjoys, she also fails to mention that much of these successes were predicated upon a strong and unwavering U.S. military presence.

Arguably, no other country has enjoyed more benefits from an alliance with America, and more importantly, as North Korea continues its relentless pursuit of more nuclear weapons, perhaps no other country faces more dire consequences from a reduced U.S. commitment than South Korea.

As Ha-yun correctly points out, the U.S.-Korea relationship is an unbalanced one. However, contrary to what she and many other Koreans argue, this imbalance is decidedly in Korea's favor, not America's. The fact is Korea has become a free rider. It is easy to march into the streets, burn flags and throw rocks in protest when your country is protected by the strongest military in the world.

The author ends her article by stating that “for once” Koreans should act upon their own “national interests.” One could not have stated a clearer policy objective from the American perspective. An assumption of unwavering American commitment to Korea has always been implicit in domestic discussions of Korean “national interests.” However, times are changing.

The United States needs reliable allies now more than ever — and, in particular, allies who reciprocate the kind of unwavering commitment that America has shown them. More to the point, the United States has never been more serious about acting firmly to secure its own “national interests” above all else. South Koreans should beware of what they wish for — they just might get it.