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American presence in South Korea

Rumpltzer

Diamond Member
Jun 7, 2003
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I lived half my childhood on military bases on Asia (with my parents). I never really thought much back then about why my family was there or how the native population might feel about our presence. I was a kid, you know?


We have South Korean exchange students at my university, and one of them (who I consider my friend) recently told me about a young South Korean girl who was killed by an American military vehicle. I can't find the details on this story, but I know that two US military men were acquitted of fault in the incident by a US military court. I seems that this incident has sparked a lot of protest amongst the young people in South Korea demanding that the US military leave South Korea.

http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/east/12/31/otsc.jie.ae/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/east/01/01/skorea.anti.us/index.html

It seems to me that this level of protest had to have been built up over time, and I expect that the recent incident over the two military men and the young girl was merely a spark.

From the several (heated) discussions that I have had with my South Korean friend, I feel that she holds a lot of animosity towards the US over its policies and specifically over its presence in South Korea. She often points out that the US is the only super-power on the planet, and she feels that the US abuses its power over other countries.

It makes me feel pretty bad that the young South Korean people (who I had presumed were friendly towards the US) seem so angry with us. I had assumed that the US presence in South Korea has a lot to do with maintaining the border between the North and the South. I had assumed that the South Korean people might be grateful for the fact. I get the impression that many of the young people in South Korea are not grateful, but are instead pretty unhappy with the US presence. I suggested to my friend a couple of weeks ago that it might be better for the US to pull out of South Korea.

This is the funny part, though. She then points out how this would be typical American irresponsibility to leave South Korea high and dry to be invaded by the North. *grin* It seems to me that the US can't win no matter what it does! I then suggest that a slow withdrawl of the US troops might be an acceptable plan. It would then give the young people of South Korea time to pick up a weapon and learn to defend their own northern border.

To some extent, this may now be happening:
http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/asiapcf/east/06/05/korea.usa/index.html

I've talked with several other South Korean students about this topic, and their feelings seem to be consistent with that of my friend's. Anyone else out there noticing any of this? Comment?

...sorry about the long posting. I just thought I'd try to distract ya'll off the Iraq thing for a while.

 

CADsortaGUY

Lifer
Oct 19, 2001
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www.ShawCAD.com
Well, I don't know the rest of your freinds state of citizenship, the one you specifically call out must not be a US citizen. She attends a US University yet feels we(US) abuses our power? Good point about the problems with pulling out of SK - which makes us the bad guys - catch-22 if you will.

The only solution to all this for the whiners(or whatever you want to lable those who don't want us there but want our protection) to provide their own plan for thier protection so we can get the heck out. I don't want our troops in places that the peaceful;) native people don't want us there.

The only really tricky part is how safe do they have to be for us to totally pull out of their country.

CkG
 

HappyPuppy

Lifer
Apr 5, 2001
16,997
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Tell your friend that I and probably most other Americans would be thrilled to pull our troops out of SK. All they have to do is specify the date. As you said, though, she was critical when you suggested doing so.

So, my question for you to ask your friend, "What do you want?" You want us in or you want us out. Make up your mind because the American people are getting fed up with your whining.
 

no0b

Diamond Member
Jul 23, 2001
3,804
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Originally posted by: HappyPuppy
Tell your friend that I and probably most other Americans would be thrilled to pull our troops out of SK. All they have to do is specify the date. As you said, though, she was critical when you suggested doing so.

So, my question for you to ask your friend, "What do you want?" You want us in or you want us out. Make up your mind because the American people are getting fed up with your whining.
 

Dragnov

Diamond Member
Apr 24, 2001
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Bah. People are too quick to point fingers and blame on each other. All to simple.

First and foremost, the only reason South Korea is still in existence today is because of the United States. Now, realize the United States was not doing this for altruistic reasons, but rather it was just another battleground to contain communism. So should you be grateful? Yes, you should be grateful that you still exist because of them. But grateful to the extent where its God bless the USA. for they are protectors of freedom? Er, no. The US isn't in East Asia still simply because we love them now... It's good for them, but its also good for us.

Now Koreans (even the ones in the United States) are highly nationalistic and often to the point of racism. Of course its not acceptable, but to me it's understandable so you should forgive them for their naiiveness. Centuries of foreigners battling over the Korean peninsula, and now that they FINALLY have their own country yet still divided... that stuff kinda shapes their personality you know.

On top of that the youth of Korea, have not lived in the Third World country they once were or experience US assistance, as the older generation has. Instead, they have these military bases right in the heart of their cities which causes numerous bad incidents, such as the vehicle accident that killed two girls I believe. No country likes having foreign troops in their own sovereign country now... it's just not a nice thing, although sometimes necessary (as in Korea). God, I mean imagine French troops stationed in a base right in the center of your city. How horrible would that be. ;):p Haha j/k, but you get the point.

The US DOES abuse its power over many of the East Asian countries, or the entire world for the most part. Thats what happens when you're the sole super power and have had a influence upon the region in history. It's essentially a right given to them, and I don't doubt that if any other country was in the same position wouldn't do the same. However, this does not mean that the US should just do whatever it wants w/o any concern to these countries such as in Korea. For THIS is what is causing the animosity and ungratefulness.

Don't misunderstand them. Koreans love Americans. They view White people (which is primarily considered Americans) as successful and powerful people. They learn English, they have American stores in Korea, they have interest in American culture. Heck, half of any Korean family probably lives in America also. None of them REALLY hates America itself, but they hate the way America acts. You know, like no one really hates a dictator, they only hate em if they feel he isn't looking out for his people/country. (This is the main problem other countries have with the Bush Administration in my opinon, not necessarily what they are doing but HOW they are doing it. But thats a different argument I don't want to get into for this post.)

Don't say "Oh maybe we should just pull out all of troops then" ala Donald Rumsfeld due to the stupid protestors demanding it. That just makes the situation/division worse. I agree though, the US can't really win no matter what.. but again, thats a responsibility you take by being the leader of the world. You know how your parents were always looking out for you, but you still hated it when you were young. In hindsight though, you can understand now right? All in time, they will do the same. We just need to concede a bit as do the Koreans, so things don't get worse. Small concessions to reach a middle ground, that we both don't have to necessarily love, but don't hate either, as we believe it is fair.

By the way, I'm a Korean born in the USA if that matters. Lived here all my life, but visited South Korea once. Those other South Korean students you've talked to talk only with their heart. They only talk with their heart, not their mind. Again, forgive and understand. :)

P.S. Examples of bad policy would be the above posts. (Oh wait, thats what Rumsfeld essentially said and woohoo look the problems have been solved huh?) Yeah, that'll make things better.
What a great way to make allies and improve our image to the world! Of course they WILL probably say "Who cares! We're the super power, deal with it!" Yeah, next time you want another country to help you weed out terrorists, participate in a war, or share intelligence just wait and see what happens. (Oh wait, those were the problems we had with our war in Iraq!!!) These guys also talk w/ only their heart and not also with their minds (or maybe just the typical stupid knee jerk reaction).

And I'm sorrier for the even longer post, but I woudln't be able to explain myself in a short answer. :p I really hope you read all of this, and understand.
 

KenGr

Senior member
Aug 22, 2002
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Originally posted by: Gr1mL0cK




By the way, I'm a Korean born in the USA if that matters. Lived here all my life, but visited South Korea once. Those other South Korean students you've talked to talk only with their heart. They only talk with their heart, not their mind. Again, forgive and understand. :)

As an American living in Seoul, I'll give you my perspective. Although it's a very complex situation and the culture and history of Korea makes it very difficult for Westerners to really understand the way Korean think, listening to college students is probably the worst way to guage public opinion. Students here seem to have a duty to protest anything accepted or condoned by the older generation, especially near exam time.

While there is a clear problem with US presence in central Seoul (there is a huge US base with 7,000 soldiers, plus support personnel and families in a prime location) the US has had a standing offer to move out of Seoul for over 10 years. All that is required is for Korea to pay for it. The secret issue here is that South Korea, in spite of being in one of the worlds tensest locations, spends less than 3% or GNP on national defense which is quite low by international standards. If the US military leaves (which they would tomorrow at the request of the South Korean government) the economic impact on South Korea is huge, both from the increase in military expenditure and the international companies that would leave due to security concerns.

The current plan, which the South Korean government seems to be nervously accepting, is to take 6,000 of the 7,000 troops out of Seoul. The troops deployed north of Seoul would be moved south. This would result in 36,000 of the 37,000 US troops being south of Seoul and out of range of North Korean artillery. This poses an unpredictable change in the balance. A North Korean attack would no longer be an attack on US soldiers. On on hand, this might temper the US response and make it easier for the North to be agressive. On the other, it takes away the NK propaganda position that they have no conflict with the south, only with the American "occupiers". This plan to move the troops will take up to 5 years so stay tuned.

 

AnImuS

Senior member
Sep 28, 2001
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i think we should bring american soldiers back home and take them out of countrys who cry where there until they need our assistance..
This would save a massive amount of spending and i would cut the majority of foreign aid aswell...

but thats just me...
 

0roo0roo

No Lifer
Sep 21, 2002
64,868
81
91
the old people don't mind the us as much. some young idealist hippie kids obviously don't:p
 

ElFenix

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Mar 20, 2000
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Originally posted by: Rumpltzer
It would then give the young people of South Korea time to pick up a weapon and learn to defend their own northern border.
theres a ton more south koreans guarding that border than US military. the only reason the US military is in harm's way there is that, just like in west germany, there is a high chance of them being attacked in the event of an invasion. if that were to happen then the full US military could come in due to US military units being attacked.

heck, there may be more south koreans in uniform than there are north koreans

anyhow, as your friend aptly pointed out, we're damned if we do, damned if we don't.
 

KenGr

Senior member
Aug 22, 2002
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Originally posted by: ElFenix
Originally posted by: Rumpltzer
It would then give the young people of South Korea time to pick up a weapon and learn to defend their own northern border.
theres a ton more south koreans guarding that border than US military. the only reason the US military is in harm's way there is that, just like in west germany, there is a high chance of them being attacked in the event of an invasion. if that were to happen then the full US military could come in due to US military units being attacked.

heck, there may be more south koreans in uniform than there are north koreans

anyhow, as your friend aptly pointed out, we're damned if we do, damned if we don't.
Curently there are estimated to be 665,000 South Koreans in uniform and 1,000,000 North Koreans in uniform. The population of South Korea is a little over 45 million and the North is a little over 20 million (depending on how many starved to death recently).

 

LeadMagnet

Platinum Member
Mar 26, 2003
2,348
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I think the answer is fairly simple - they hold prsent a bill for the US to stay or go at the time of thier next election. And we obey the majorities' wishes.
 

JellyBaby

Diamond Member
Apr 21, 2000
9,159
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KenGr, what steps if any have the N. and S. taken toward reunification or at least a better understanding of one another? What do the S.K. college kids think of the N.K. college kids...er wait do the later even exist?
 

Rumpltzer

Diamond Member
Jun 7, 2003
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Hey! This is good stuff. Thanks, ya'll for taking the time to respond. It's interesting to know other's ideas on the issue. It's especially interesting to know the feelings of an American living in Seoul.

See, I was trying to just tell my story and not get all excited and irrational. I guess that comment about the young South Koreans picking up a weapon and defending their own northern border was probably not helpful in that effort. I can rationalize that there certainly must be a lot of South Koreans defending their own country. I figure, though, that the 35,000 American troops currently stationed in South Korea could be replaced by a domestic force.

I personally do feel that the gradual move of American troops out of Seoul and away from the border is progress. I'm not sure it really does a lot as far as taking American troops out of harm's way, but I hope that it might relieve some of the animosity towards the US among the young South Koreans and I hope that it might take some of the tension off that border with the North Koreans.

...so, it was completely hysterical to me when I got to the end of that third CNN article and read about the North's response to the move of US troops south of Seoul: "North Korea has condemned the plan as a preparation for war." There's just no way to please anyone, huh? *grin*


Oh, by the way, my friend is working on her masters in English translation and interpretation. I see some skewed irony in this detail, but she tells me that the Americans don't own English--it's a world language. I agree that Americans don't own English, but I doubt that skills in English serve the South Korean people because of British or Canadian influences. Also, I speak a couple of other languages. I don't feel that English (with its many quirks and nuances) is the most suitable choice for a "world language".

 

KenGr

Senior member
Aug 22, 2002
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Originally posted by: JellyBaby
KenGr, what steps if any have the N. and S. taken toward reunification or at least a better understanding of one another? What do the S.K. college kids think of the N.K. college kids...er wait do the later even exist?
Thus far, the efforts have been massive amounts of South Korean money, food, etc sent to the North. In return, the North has allowed a limited number of families to be reunited for brief visits. The contact between people from the North and South have been otherwise limited to government officials and a small number of technical people.

I teach a little English on the side to help some people I work with. They generally cannot distinguish between Brits, Americans, Aussies, etc because their ears are so far from being tuned to Western accents. There is an "international English" and it's pretty much American business English.



 

burnedout

Diamond Member
Oct 12, 1999
6,249
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Now, realize the United States was not doing this for altruistic reasons, but rather it was just another battleground to contain communism.
True. However, in my opinion, the current emphasis is geared more towards regional stability for economic reasons rather than containment.

Oh, by the way, my friend is working on her masters in English translation and interpretation. I see some skewed irony in this detail, but she tells me that the Americans don't own English--it's a world language. I agree that Americans don't own English, but I doubt that skills in English serve the South Korean people because of British or Canadian influences. Also, I speak a couple of other languages. I don't feel that English (with its many quirks and nuances) is the most suitable choice for a "world language".
The English debate surfaces at times. While the language itself may not be the most suitable choice for a "world language" per se, the economic implications behind subscription thereto most certainly seems valid.
 

mastertech01

Moderator Emeritus<br>Elite Member
Nov 13, 1999
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Incidents occur with our military soldiers and equipment all over the world. Im sure we would love to pull all of our billions of dollars spent each year on foreign soil in support of military presence, but we would likely spend many times more in due time rescueing them from take over by the countries who would take advantage.

The US is taking steps of moving its military resources around the world to level out the need, but it will take years to reorganize it all. As long as the Korean conflict remains simply a cease fire and North Korea remains a threat, dont look forward to a withdrawal of forces for a long time. If China would step up to the plate and help out with North Korea we might be able to accomplish that some day. But for all its whining the rest of the world is happy to let the US be the one to expend funding and lives to police the world. IMHO
 

Aceshigh

Platinum Member
Aug 22, 2002
2,529
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American troops are most definitely still needed in SK.

Yes, there have been numerous incidents where stupid or careless soldiers have commited crimes or been involved in accidents which have injured and killed some south korean civillians. This happens in Japan quite often too (mostly unruly marines).This is terrible and needs to be stopped. U.S soldiers need to show more respect for the country they are in and not act like jackasses.

But the younger south korean generation really doesn't have a clue what they are talking about when they diss the U.S. Talk to almost any middle aged or older south korean and they are very happy to have the U.S there. They remember what it was like to live under the north korean threat, the atrocities of war, and they are grateful for the U.S presence.

Alot of the younger generation today in SK is very idealistic and doesn't realise the threat north korea still poses. Kim Jong is crazy and unpredictable.

The older generation appreciates us and wants us to remain.

Korea is one of the most beautiful countries with some of the most beautiful people. The political situation there is very regrettable.
 

CanOWorms

Lifer
Jul 3, 2001
12,414
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There was an article about this on the msnbc website a few months ago. The South Korean protestors stopped protesting against the US when NK was acting more aggressive. They want US protection when NK gets agitated.
 

Dragnov

Diamond Member
Apr 24, 2001
6,878
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Originally posted by: burnedout
Now, realize the United States was not doing this for altruistic reasons, but rather it was just another battleground to contain communism.
True. However, in my opinion, the current emphasis is geared more towards regional stability for economic reasons rather than containment.
Ehhhhh. I'd say that wanted regional stability for both reasons, but more so for containment. Having an underdeveloped country w/ very shaky political grounds is a hot bed for communism and terrorism to spread to. Of course, having another market is always a plus, but by this time the United States already started seeing Japan/East Asia as more of an economic threat that would overtake them... well at least a considerable group... I mean people are STILL crying about globalism.
 

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