What to Do About Anti-Americanism, <i>by Kim Dae-joong </i>

      May 19, 2008 09:33

      An American living in Seoul recently asked me this unexpected question: "What would have happened if the Olympic torch relay had been linked to the U.S. and Americans in Korea rioted like Chinese residents in Korea did a while ago?" It probably wouldn't all have ended in smoke, and Korea would certainly have been flooded with so-called candlelight vigils; it's hard to tell ourselves that there would have been no retaliatory acts.

      Listening to that question and experiencing the latest uproar over U.S. beef imports, I feel compelled to ask the fundamental question, "What is the U.S. to us?" It has often degenerated into a political issue, holding us back and embarrassing us at many a turn. The Left makes an issue of anything that has to do with the U.S., even something that would have gone unnoticed had it been done by other countries, and the whole question is treated as if that were a reflection of the progressive way of thinking. Frankly, I'm tempted to ask whether, had the source of beef imports been not America, but Britain, France, China or Japan, the country would resound with daily denunciations that they’re trying to kill the lot of us.

      Korean society can barely talk about anything without mentioning the U.S. We emigrate to, study in, do business with and go on holiday in the U.S. Perhaps one in two households here has some link with America. We abuse the U.S. with our mouths, but at heart we love America; the nation is displeased with the U.S. as an entity but friendly toward Americans individually. Nothing could be more contradictory.

      What are the roots of the sentiments? In our constant dealings with the U.S., we've perhaps encountered too much of the superior position and sentiment of U.S. to us. In that process, we have come to harbor a feeling of being victimized since we are the weaker country in the alliance. While accommodating U.S. troops stationed here, we have generated plenty of conflict and controversies surrounding them. North Korea and the pro-Pyongyang forces here denounce them, and their propaganda and brain-washing tactics has spread a sense that the U.S. troops are the source of all wrongs done on the Korean Peninsula and a walking emblem of imperialist aggression. Leftwing organizations and some civic forces sympathetic with them ceaselessly demand the withdrawal of U.S. troops, just as North Korea does.

      But enough is enough. We can no longer afford to waste time on America issues and anti-American sentiment and let them ruin our social integrity. We cannot leave the controversies and candlelight vigils over the U.S. Forces Korea unchecked any longer. It’s past time we had a proper social mechanism to deal with this effectively.

      We must establish long-term principles and put our house in order. If there should be public consensus that the USFK have outlived their usefulness, we have to make steady preparations for their departure. But we cannot have this loose talk about self-confidence versus financial burden arising from defending us on our own. Some people assert that American troops are stationed in the country not to meet our needs but as part of America's global strategy. If that was the case, we could easily ask that they are withdrawn or that the U.S. pays for their entire upkeep.

      But if we acknowledge that they are stationed here for our benefit, we should be ready to pay the price. We must nourish a pragmatic recognition of the order of give and take in our relations with Washington. It would be hypocritical and selfish to keep the USFK here while freely indulging our anti-American sentiments.

      Our U.S. policies and USFK issue have shifted with successive administrations. But the USFK should not be dealt with as part of the political bent of an administration or the ideological leanings of a president. The republic's security is at stake, so we should properly approach the issue from the point of view of our interests, and put sentiment where it belongs, on the back burner.

      What I told the American who had asked that uncomfortable question was this: We fear China. China has always been leaning on us throughout our 4,000-year history. But we don't fear the U.S. because we know that even if Americans here were to riot and be punished accordingly, they wouldn't evict Korean students studying there in retaliation nor invade and occupy our country." He responded, “In that case, we should be scary, too.” I read troop withdrawal in his answer.
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