Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Anti-Americanism in Korea: Love/hate, expectation/disappointment

I read Melissa’s posting and Justing’s comment. I agree with Justin that Korean people have a kind of Love/ hate relationship with the U.S. and even a strong obsession on the U.S., not just the South but also North Korea.
I think substantial portion of Anti-Americanism in Korea was created by Korean people’s disappointment on the U.S. and it means Korean people had really expected something from the U.S. For example, King Kojong expected the U.S. would help and protect declining Chosun from other great powers, but the president of the U.S. thought that Chosun is not deserve to be independent. Korean people were exhilarated by Woodrow Wilson’s declaration on ‘Self-determination’ but the 3.1 movement in 1919 was brutally oppressed by Japanese soldiers and the U.S. did not pay attention to Korea. Some people who were really disappointed with the U.S. such as Kim San (a Korean Revolutionary from the book ‘Arirang’) became a Communist after this incident. During the Kwangju democratic movement, leaders of movement hoped the U.S. do something to save them from General Chun, ‘the butcher of Kwangju’ and were really glad when they heard an U.S. Naval fleet was approaching toward Busan. However, the U.S. was more interested in the stability of the Korean peninsula from the Cold War perspective rather than the democratic movement. And the Butcher of Kwangju was welcomed by President Reagan. Apparently, these are the history which is not familiar to most of American people.

The U.S. is a nation state seeking its national interest. However, it also expressed too much rhetoric creating hope from week countries or oppressed people. Some rhetoric was true but not all of it. How should Korean people understand the U.S.?

1 comment:

Justin-B형 said...

I believe you are exactly right when you say that the US is a nation state seeking its own national interest. That is the primary duty of a "Nation". A nation, if it can be imagined as a living breathing organism, operates by instinct in a very self centered way most of the time. Varying governments do what they feel is right for their nation at that time. For that reason it is quite difficult to compare early 20th century Woodrow Wilson (who by the way has come under fire for his racist beliefs;simply "google" Woodrow Wilson and racism to see what I mean) Policy toward Korea to Jimmy Carter's embattled foreign policy decisions in the later half. (see Iran hostage crisis) A government's foreign policy evolves over time, as you well know. I think an argument can be made that the US was not considered (nor did it consider itself) a "global power" in 1919; But rather an "emerging" power. The bad taste of WWI was still in the mouths of the world and picking and choosing one's "battles" was the order of the day. Couple that with Western,frankly, ignorance and racist apathy towards countries in east Asia and you are left with the lassiez-faire attitude toward Japanese imperial behavior. Fast forward to Kwangju in the spring of 1980; You can see a US administration up to its ears in the Iran Hostage crisis, negotiations for normalizing relations with China removing nukes from South Korea as well as drawing down troop levels. It would be hard to see the Carter administration getting in the middle of a revolt in Kwangju.
I am by no means defending the actions of the US on these two events but rather seeking to put them into perspective. I share your feelings that US intervention was in order in both situations. As it was needed in Rwanda, Sierra Leon and continues to be in order to this day in the Sudan.

So what should Korean people think of the US? Disappointment in foreign policy may seem like a one way street coming from the US. And American rhetoric seems to only lead Korea into trouble (Iraq, Afghanistan)with little gain for Korea. I also think that as South Korea moves closer to China and the EU in the coming decades it will meet similar disappointments in foreign policy.
So,there is no way, perhaps, for the average person not working in /studying international politics to see the relationship between countries as anything but in terms of friend or foe comparatives. Those of us fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work/study in these international fields must remind the populous that there are no "friends" in international relations only "allies" and there is a big difference between the two.