Sunday, March 18, 2007

Evictions, Bases, and Military Occupation

The BBC has an interview with a Korean farmer here, which is interesting. We haven't talked much yet about the impact of the United States on Korea, and how similar its impact has been to that of the Japanese. This particular interview really drives home, at least for me, the comparisons between the two experiences for a farmer from a small village like that one.

How do American base expansions like this one play in Korean society? I would imagine they are not viewed favorably by the nationalist population, given that they are a version of foreign occupation nearly as bad as the Japanese to individuals like Kim (the farmer). This article seems to indicate that most of the residents are not up in arms about it, but rather that already anti-American protesters have been mobilized on it.

However, aside from that mention, there don't seem to be a lot of problems right now with the move, as this article from Chosun Ilbo indicates. I don't know that much about this topic, so I'd be interested to see what everyone else thinks about either moving the base (why has it not caused more problems? Should we be surprised by that?) or the possible comparison of the American forces to the Japanese (does that happen a lot? How are American troops generally viewed in Korea?)

The deadline for this move seems to be the end of this month, so that indicates things are moving foward. It will be interesting to see if any more comes of this, or if the move happens quietly.


Sean said...

I remember sitting next to a soldier based in Yongsan on a flight to Korea once. We talked about the perception of American soldiers in Korea, and for the most part, it was negative. But I'm not sure if it this can be directly attributed to national history and colonialism. Most of these soldiers are young guys (many of them teenagers) who have left home for the first time, and as they say, boys will be boys. I don't think any group of college-aged guys will have the best reception when they're unleased upon a large city like Seoul in the thousands.

Grace said...

To add to that, I ended up interpreting for 3 US soldiers at Shinchon Station in Seoul and as we were on the same train I got to talk to them for 40 minutes. They expressed frustration over the fact that they were here protecting Korea but viewed negatively by the population. One of the guys complained about prejudice and how he was charged a higher rate for his beer as compared to Koreans at bars (I don't know if that is true or not but wouldn't be too surprised if it did happen). Then they started complaining about customs/mannerisms that they thought were rude, etc. While I understood most of their complaints--since I held similar ones myself--the unspoken but obvious sense of American superiority turned me off as well. I can understand how this attitude can annoy Koreans, which in turn annoys American soldiers for not having their presence appreciated. Overall, I think it's a lack of understanding and prejudice on both sides that contribute more to the problems than anything else.