How South Koreans view the evolution of the US military presence


In South Korea, demonstrations against the US military presence tend to be spurred on by high-profile incidents or major construction projects. A fraction of the population, however, maintained an unwavering resistance. Oh Hye-ran is on staff with Solidarity for the Peace and Reunification of Korea, or Spark, a Seoul-based nonprofit group that advocates for the withdrawal of US forces and supports local activists near bases and facilities. American. In Spark’s humble office filled with books, Oh explained that recent moves towards peace between the two Koreas had given hope to their cause. “Regarding the North-South situation, North Korea does not have the military capacity. Even without the United States, South Korea can defend itself, ”she said. Spark was active in the fight against the expansion of Camp Humphreys; his latest campaign is for the withdrawal of Thaad, an American missile defense system installed last year in the farming village of Soseong-ri.

Although the Korean people do not agree on the advisability of the American military presence, “a pro-American security consensus is quite entrenched in national institutions and ideology,” according to Andrew Yeo, professor at the Catholic University. South Korean liberals and conservatives, though at odds in their rhetoric, are also bound by “standards that guide South Korean national security strategy,” including a lasting alliance with the United States, writes Yeo in his book “Activists, Alliances and Demonstrations against American Bases. The fear of a rising China is also bipartisan: these days, it is not uncommon to read editorials by professors and politicians in the Korean press warning that “if the United States wash its hands and go, anyway. Northeast Asia will be left to the Chinese. “

Although the South Korean military is by no means anemic (618,000 people in uniform, universal male conscription, warships, submarines, missile defense systems and fighter jets purchased from American weapons manufacturers) , the foreign policy establishment believes that US troops should and, Remain in place. “I think this is important, both in the confrontation with North Korea and for regional and global stability,” said Jonathan Cristol, researcher at Adelphi University. Moon Chung-in, adviser to President Moon, recently wrote that the suspension of joint military exercises should not be interpreted as undermining “the alliance and combat readiness.”

Korean prosperity and power are insufficient, and unlikely, to displace the US-Korea alliance, according to Pyeongtaek native Choi Chi-sun. The inhabitants of the gijichon know it best, he said, “They lived by the Nixon doctrine. … They know that things will not change quickly, that there will be no reunification right away. In 1987, after studying and working in Seoul, Choi returned with his family to his hometown. He founded an electronics company and, during his off-peak hours, became an amateur ethnographer of the region. “I wanted to capture the story of the city’s demise,” he said. “The modern history of Pyeongtaek is a microcosm of Korea – the economy, the military – all of it. And without the American basics, you can’t tell the story of Pyeongtaek, past, present, or future.


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