Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lee Kwang Pil Protests Something Worth Protesting

With all the protests over beef imports in Korea, you may be surprised to learn that there are folks actually standing up for real issues, like the 486 South Koreans who have been kidnapped by the North. Some of them are still thought to be alive, although few have escaped.

At the height of the Sunshine Policy, the South Korean government went out of their way to not offend Kim’s regime, and turned a deaf ear to the families of those calling on their government to stand up for their lost family members. One of these folks said in 2004, that “our family members have become inconvenient for the South Korean government at a time when they are more interested in pleasing North Korea than demanding the return of their own citizens.”

Sadly, acording to the Daily NK, Lee Kwang Pil was the lone protester there to demand the release of those held in the north. Those are some fine priorities you have there protesters.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Korea: From Ally to ‘Partner’

Chosun Ilbo has a piece up about Condoleezza Rice’s recent comments concerning the American-Korean alliance. They write:
“U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls South Korea a "global partner" but Japan and Australia "allies” in an article in the July-August issue of bimonthly journal Foreign Affairs, in what appears the latest manifestation of a subtle shift in America’s regional focus.”

While her comments are not a retaliation to the recent beef import nonsense in Korea (that likely reached its zenith last night), it does go to show the way the U.S. and Korea may work together on some key factors, our relationship has been seriously strained in the last 20 years. Chosun goes on to say:
“There is a suggestion that while Rice views Japan and Australia as allies, she regards South Korea as “merely” a partner in U.S. national security matters. That hints at a changing concept of security strategies in the U.S. regarding Asia and the Pacific. Indeed, it is becoming something of a trend in the U.S. to call South Korea a "partner", in contrast to Japan and Australia, which have been more fulsome in their support of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.”

I would disagree that our relationship with Korea has been strained only under President Bush’s presidency. For a number of reasons (some fair but most mindless), anti-American feelings are common amongst the Korean population as a whole, and the beef protests are a perfect representation of that. At the heart of that issue, is the fear among Koreans that the American government does not care about their safety, and is going to send them food that is contaminated. I have heard Korean protesters falsely assert that America is sending meat to Korea that they won’t even feed to their dogs. This belief is not rooted in fact, but it none the less caught on like wildfire, and goes to show a deep distrust amongst the Korean population towards the United States. Lies and mischaracterizations about the United States catch on so easily because there is so little confidence, which is why I see recent protests as rooted in anti-Americanism even if they are not burning American flags and calling for American blood.

But I digress. Rice wrote a piece in Foreign Affairs, where she makes an important point as to why Korea has been downgraded to a “partner” in recent years.
“Democratization is also deepening across the Asia-Pacific region... This is expanding our circle of allies and advancing the goals we share.”

The number of nations in the American political orbit has increased, making our special relationship between the United States and Korea that was forged after the Korean War looking like a relic of the past. With many candidates rethinking our trade relationship, and with the slow move of troops off the peninsula, our previous alliance may have run its course.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Kyung Ju World!

Screw all the pictures of Korean historical sites and commentary on politics: it’s time for some theme park fun! I went to Kyung Ju World with some of my coworkers Friday, and here is a pic from our “Grand Canyon Adventure.”

Here we are entering the ride, looking at a Native American trying to spear a mountain line while looking quite awesome in his empowering stance. I found it quite interesting that all the images from the “Grand Canyon” ride dealt with Indians killing things, or miners looking dirty pulling things from the ground. That’s what the international impact of westerns has given us a I suppose.