Monday, August 28, 2006

Older South Koreans Support the USA - ROK Alliance

I'm a few days behind on this story, but I have a good excuse which I won't share here as it's really doesn't matter. The issue is still brewing here in South Korea (Republic of Korea - ROK). Plus, as both work and school are starting for me next week, this won't be the last story that catches a bit of dust before I get to it.

However, I was clicking around looking for something to read and tripped over this story, S. Koreans Rally in Support Of Alliance, on the Washington Post website. It reports that on August 11th protested gathered at 서울 역, Seoul Station, to protest the pending transfer of military wartime command from the USA to South Korea.

Thousands of South Koreans, including former defense ministers wearing their old military uniforms, rallied Friday in Seoul demanding that the president halt moves to retake wartime command of the country's military from the United States.

"Stop the plot to destroy the Korea-U.S. alliance!" protesters chanted during a rally in front of the city's central train station.

Over their heads flew balloons strung with placards bearing the images of the South Korean and U.S. flags side-by-side.
What's interesting to me is the article pointed out that there is a generational divide here in Korea on this issue. Older Koreans who saw the destruction and division of their country first-hand tend to oppose the push to lessen the US involvement in South Korea. In contrast, younger Koreans, who don't have any memory of the Korean War, tend to support less involvement from the US. It's spearheaded by the 386ers which is short-hand for a generation that is pretty darn impressive.
... clever shorthand for what is the essence of this group. The 3 stands for their age--these people are still in their late 30s (or, at most, early 40s)--absurdly young in a Confucian society to be reaching for power and influence. The 8 is for the 1980s, the tumultuous period when they attended university and the country shifted from dictatorship to democracy. And the 6 is for the 1960s, when they were born--the era when their parents were toiling ceaselessly to industrialize their war-shattered nation.

These 386ers are the ones who faced down Korea's military rulers, did hard time in prison for student and labor activism, and fought deep-seated corruption in the country's executive suites and government offices. They're at the vanguard of the country's surprising surge of anti-Americanism, and they insist on a new tone of tolerance in the debate on North Korea. And they have created the most energetic corporate governance movement in Asia. (from Korea's Young Lions on the website)
As it stands now the US - South Korea alliance is one where the US is in a tripwire situation. Due to the placement of US troops at 판문점, Panmunjeom, if anything were to happen on the US would immediately be drawn into the conflict. As a US citizen, I'm not really comfortable with that. However, first, I realize that has been the set-up since before I was born. I also realize, most importantly, that it's like that because it's a key deterrent to the North initiating anything along the Demilitarized Zone, DMZ.

If the North started an offensive, not only would South Korean troops be immediately mobilized, but so would US troops. All of the US's firepower on the peninsula and as well as the ones stationed in Japan and in other regions in Asia.

It's just ironic in a culture and society that supposedly looks to it's elders for direction and guidance is, in this case, blantantly igonring what the older generation has to say.
Among those speaking publicly against the plan have been many of the country's former defense ministers, who argue that the command transfer is premature and would unravel the country's alliance with Washington and undercut deterrence against North Korea. (from S. Koreans Rally in Support Of Alliance)
Ultimately, it's an issue the South Korean people will sort out. Good for them that they've built working a democracy that allows them to do it.

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  1. The Korean 386'rs are very comparable to the Boomers in America in the late 60s/early 70s.

    And they will follow the same arc. As they come into power in the Political and Business worlds, they will become more and more a part of the system, though they bring a Liberalising influence with them.

    It is unfortunate for Korea that the timing is all wrong, on a geoplitical scale, for this swing to the left.

    I, for one, have no doubt that we will see Korean reunification within the next 20 years.

  2. Welcome back and thanks for another thoughtful comment!

    Re unification, we just might.

    Actually, that might end up being what I'll look into as a thesis, but maybe even a dissertation. At this point, it's all fuzzy thoughts buzzing around in my head with flashes of clarity here and there.

    It's an interesting scenario to think through.


Hey there! Thanks for visiting my blog. It's my first blog, and I'm glad folks are still stopping by even though I'm no longer living in South Korea. Feel free to comment. If you want a personal answer, leave your email, and I won't publish the comment. Nasty comments and spam links will not be tolerated.