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Leaving South Korea?
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60 Minutes followed up its profile of North Korea from last week with a profile this week of South Korea. The piece was, at times, wrenching to watch, in some ways moreso than the companion piece on the North.

There were shots of regular anti-American protests, complete with bands singing anti-American songs chock full of expletives (and no, they weren't singing "You Americans are fucking great!", either). There were images of young South Koreans burning American flags. There was a conversation with South Koreans in a coffee shop, saying they were more afraid of George Bush than Kim Jong-Il. As in Germany's last elections, Prime Minister Roh Moo-hyun was elected in part by playing to anti-American sentiment.

Many critics of military action against Iraq cynically assert that we're not already bombing North Korea "because there's no oil there". I wish they'd explain to me, then, what our ulterior motives are for risking the lives of 37,000 American troops by maintaining a presence in South Korea.

For the past 50 years we've maintain a constant military presence in South Korea, who have become a strong economic partner with the U.S., and one of Asia's leading economies. Our stated goal is to maintain a state of readiness to defend our ally in case of aggression from the militaristic regime to thier north.

"Since 65 percent of North Korea's forces are forward deployed within 100 kilometers of the DMZ, we must constantly be wary and watchful," Gen. John Tilelli Jr. said. "Everyday, the Combined Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance stands vigilant -- ready to fight and win should the North Korean leadership launch an attack. North Korea understands that it is the combined ROK and U.S. alliance that prevents them from achieving their ultimate goal of unifying the Korean Peninsula under a Communist regime."

Then again, I could just be lapping up U.S. propaganda (as I'm want to do). I'm sure there are people out there ready to tell me the real reason we're in South Korea.

Anyway, perhaps the most difficult segment of the piece was the interview of the Commander of the Eighth Army based in South Korea, Lieutenant General Charles C. Campbell. Bob Simon asked him to respond to what people at home must be thinking while watching the story, that if they don't want us there, we should get the hell out and see how long it takes for North Korea to come marching over the border (I'm paraphrasing). [Actually, here's an unsubstantiated indicator that we might be considering just that...via Instapundit.] Campbell calmly answered that U.S. policy wasn't governed by passing sentiment. The intimation was that we helped build, foster, and protect South Korea over the past fifty years. We've been their strongest ally by far, both economically and militarily, and we will continue to stand by them, even when they spit in our face.

Then Simon asked a follow-up question. He noted Campbell's calm, rational response to the previous question, but asked him how it must feel to see South Koreans burning an American flag. I honestly expected him to get angry or defiant. I didn't expect the man to be fighting back tears as he said that he was glad that South Koreans lived in a country where they could choose to express themselves however they wanted. But he was pained, as any American should be, by the utter contempt demonstrated toward America, who has probably been the best friend of South Korea since its inception.

Last week I blogged about our obligation to North Korea. But I have to admit being angered by the piece I just watched. I'm sure a lot of people watching felt the same way I did. They don't want us there? Fine. Fuck 'em. Bring our troops home.

And it makes me wonder about the notion of helping someone who not only takes your support for granted, but openly slaps you in the face while doing so.

Should we still help those who resent that help?

[Update: Blogger Thinking Meat has an interesting post on the issue.

He quotes various South Koreans, such as this a woman who says:

"The U.S. enjoys inducing the crisis with the North Koreans so its forces can stay here."

To which TM responds:

That's it. That's the extent of the conspiracy: the U.S. is constantly stirring up trouble in Korea so that we can continue to spend billions of dollars per year to base our troops there. Why? No idea. To what end? No answer. Perhaps it's time someone started a new movement stateside, to get the U.S. out of Korea. No blood for kimchee! -- it has a certain ring to it.

Start making your posters now.]

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