A drawing of Douglas MacArthur on the front cover of the May 2, 1942 edition of Australian Womens Weekly
In 1945, the allied forces led by the U.S. liberated Korea from Imperial Japan and gave Korea its independence. These forces were led by General Douglas MacArthur, leader of the allied forces in the Pacific. American forces occupied southern Korean, while Soviet forces occupied northern Korea, up to the 38th parrallel. The Soviet Union installed communist Kim Il Sung to rule North Korea, and Rhee Syngman became the leader of South Korea, with US support.
On June 25, 1950 North Korea launched a devestating surprise attack on South Korea, with the approval of Soviet leader Stalin.
In a short time the North Koreans were in control of 90% of Korean territory as the outmatched South Korean army fell back and routed. Seoul was taken and the North Korean army moved on to Pusan, the largest city in the most southern part of Korea.
Called to war again, to help Korea for a second time, General Douglas MacArthur saw the defeated South Korean forces and created a bold plan to outflank the north Korean forces by heroically landing at Inchon, to take advantage of of the fact that the North Koreans and their Soviet advisors would never expect such dangerous gamble.
The soldier scaling the seawall at Incheon is named Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, and he was a member of the Marine Corps. He died for Korea, and for the freedom enjoyed by present day Koreans. Was his life wasted for ungrateful Koreans?
On September 15, 1950, the Allied forces attacked Incheon and was successful. General MacArthur came close to uniting Korea, but the Chinese army intervened to assist the North Korean army.
The battle of Seoul. More ‘foreigners’ dead for the sake of Koreans
A cease-fire was established on July 27, 1953, and Korea still remained divided. Still, the people of South Korea were spared the hell that was to become North Korea, and owed General MacArthur a debt of gratitude. The people of Inchon were especially grateful, and erected a 16.5-foot bronze statue at Freedom Park in Inchon of MacArthur in 1957.
MacArthur statue at the Freedom Park in Inchon. Korean ‘progressives’ want to tear it down
Now many Koreans want to tear the monument down as an ‘obstacle to unification‘. They also say that MacArthur is a war criminal.
“MacArthur is a war criminal who massacred numerous civilians at the time of the Korean War,” anti-U.S. groups said in a plea submitted to South Korea’s National Human Rights Commission last month. “To induce or force children to respect such a person by erecting a statue of him and teaching them that he is a great figure is a national disgrace and greatly injures the dignity of our people,” they said.
Kim Soo-nam, 65, who heads another pro-reunification group, recalled the insensitive behavior of U.S. troops during the war. “They sat in their jeeps and scattered biscuits on the ground. The poorly dressed young children would swarm like ants, and they took photos of that,” he said. He add rectifying “the vestiges of colonialism and our distorted history must begin with removing the MacArthur statue, which is a symbol of imperialism.”
“MacArthur is a general of blood and tears. He can’t stand in this place which symbolizes peace and freedom,” said Yoon Han-tak, 70, a retired schoolteacher.
Mr Yoon, I say to you that your freedom was purchased at the high cost of Allied blood. And now you sell it so cheaply!
Thanks to the kind of education South Koreans recieve at their schools, they think that Kim Il Jong is good, and MacArthur is bad.
This Newsweek article gets it spot on, rare for foreign coverage of Korea.
The Unwanted General
Young revisionists in South Korea are rethinking who the villains and heroes were in the Korean War
Sept. 5, 2005 issue – Fifty-five years ago this month, U.S. Gen. Douglas Mac-Arthur led 70,000 United Nations troops ashore at Inchon on the Korean Peninsula. They attacked North Korean troops, who had penetrated 300 kilometers south, from behind and within two weeks had forced them to retreat. To commemorate the turning point of the war, grateful South Koreans erected a statue of MacArthur in Inchon. But most of those visiting the monument these days do not come to honor the Amer-ican commander. Instead hundreds of protesters have gathered recently to demand that the statue—celebrating a man they see as a warmonger determined to fight communism at the expense of Korean blood—be torn down. “MacArthur started and perpetuated Korea’s division,” says Han In Sup, a civic activist leading the campaign to remove the statue. “He came here to serve U.S. interests, not to save Koreans.”
And then, shockingly to people that dont know the situation in Korea –
In a news-paper survey taken this August, 66 percent of those aged between 16 and 25 said they would now side with Pyongyang if a war broke out between North Korea and the United States. The new civil war may be between allies, not enemies.
Where are these youth getting these attitudes? It must be from the schools and the media. All that is standing in their way is a small group of war veterans that remember what MacArthur did for Korea.
If its only the old people defending MacArthur, then he doesnt have a chance
This CS monitor article makes it clear that this is a ‘generational clash‘ between the young and anti American, and the older generation that actually remembers the war.
INCHON, SOUTH KOREA – A bronze statue of Douglas MacArthur looks over South Korea’s bustling Inchon harbor, a reminder of the American general’s role in driving back North Korean forces in 1950. These days, however, the statue has become a touchstone for an intergenerational conflict about the role of America in modern-day South Korea.
Young radical leftists have led assaults on the 15-foot-tall statue, meeting resistance from South Korean military veterans – some of whom show up wearing military uniforms or civilian garb with medals, ribbons, and old unit insignia. The protest has been building for more than a year and is likely to intensify around Sept. 15, the 55th anniversary of the Inchon landing. At a typical demonstration last month, hundreds of Korean riot police were there both to protect the statue and defend the leftists against the veterans, who threatened to beat them.
The struggle reflects in microcosm a gulf between older-generation Korean conservatives, who remember MacArthur as a hero who saved the South from communism, and younger Koreans pushing for reconciliation with the North.
Some foreigners say that the most anti foreigner and anti American Koreans are of the older generation, but I have found the opposite to be true. The only people I have met spewing anti American hate have been young Koreans, not the elderly. I remember vividly when a Korean foreign student insisted that the American soldiers driving the tank that accidentally ran over 2 schoolgirls in 2002 were laughing after ‘deliberately steering the tank to murder them’.
Now the ‘progressive’ Koreans are going after MacArthur, who is now a villian to Korean youth (does anyone have a Korean textbook to see how he is described?).
I think that it is time for the US to withdraw from Korea. Any help that foreign countries offer Korea will later twisted into some sort of attack by evil foreigners on Korea. Considering the way that US soldiers are treated and thought of by Koreans, its too much to expect them to fight and die for Koreans again.
UPDATE: Congressmen have written President Roh expressing their concern about what is happening. Below is an excerpt –
The House Committee on International Relations, in a letter to South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, said the U.S. Congress is “disturbed” by reports of protests around the statue of General Douglas MacArthur, whom protesters describe as a “war criminal.”
“Needless to say, Mr. President, the Congress of the United States and the American people would never subscribe to such a description of a hero who led the Allied forces which liberated the Republic of Korea twice,” the letter said, referring to Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule and the famous Incheon landing that marked its 55th anniversary on Thursday.
See One Free Korea for the full text.
Meanwhile, in response to the letter, the Choson Ilbo has called on the Korean government to ‘take a clear position’ on issue but has also said that –
…phrases in the U.S. lawmakers’ letter like “liberating Korea twice” are apt to hurt Korean pride.
Which really cuts to the heart of the issue. Isnt it for the reason that MacArthur ‘liberated Korea twice’ and that it hurts Korean pride that some Koreans want to take the statue down? An honest person shouldnt feel damaged pride when hearing the truth.
UPDATE II: The Korean media is starting to recognise the danger in these anti American protests. This is a must read JoongAng Daily editorial.
UPDATE III: The Choson Ilbo reports that protestors have attacked police that were stopping them from tearing down the statue of MacArthur.
‘Progressive’ protesters illegally try to tear down the statue of General MacArthur
UPDATE IV: In a case of me totally missing the obvious, it seems that the anti American protesters chose 9/11/2005 because in coincides with the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Below is Joshua’s comment from marmot that brought this to my attention.
This is not just about views of MacArthur or Incheon, or the feng shui merits of having his statue on the hill. It’s about a violent attack on a symbol of America, deliberately scheduled to take place on 9/11. This could only have been meant as a rhetorical statement of approval of the mass murder of Americans. Not all of the anti-American violence in Korea recently has been rhetorical, as you know, and few of those behind it have met with serious punishment during Roh’s presidency. And while it may lack the same symbolic potency, the hateful malice of 9/11/05 was no less vile than that behind a cross burning. By just how much of a margin did we avert a direct confrontation between these violent thugs and returning American veterans?
Every nation has its lunatic fringe, of course, and it’s a sure sign of a true democracy when all facets of it speak freely. But speech and violence are two very different things, and Roh earns this criticism because he’s agnostic about distinguishing the two by imposing hard time for political violence–regardless of party affiliation. Even Roh’s own party can’t quite figure out what it thinks of the Redvests and their methods. In a week when we’ve seen some extraordinary herrenvolk ideology coming from both Koreas, a senior member of the Uri party actually praised the 9/11/05 thugs for their “deep ethnic purity.” Last I’ve heard, no one has stripped him of his leadership post or expelled him from the party. I’m sure no one will seriously consider either idea.
As we have seen all too often, Roh is a weak man who instinctively aims for the middle ground between opposing views, almost without regard for the objective merits of each side’s view. We have seen North Korea play this insight brilliantly during the six-party talks. Congress, it seems, has finally figured this out. It perceives Roh’s blindness to the excess of young left-wing Koreans, perhaps because they are his electoral base. It realizes that Roh will take the support of the United States for granted unless it shifts the debate by making its demands public. It probably does not mind embarrassing Roh, or sending a message to Korean voters that the alliance is terminable at will.
Finally, consider the likely political consequence of that statue coming down. If it does, future congresses are unlikely to authorize the President to send forces to protect South Korea. Alliances are based on common interests and values. That basis is called into question if Roh not only “balances” between its protectors and its historical overlords, but also triangulates between violent radicalism and democratic tolerance. Congress is telling Roh to do our taxpayers the courtesy of telling us whose side he is on, and acting as if he means it.
Great analysis, Joshua.
UPDATE V: Some good commentary about this issue by GI Korea.