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Legacy of President Roh: Anti-Americanism

June 1st, 2006 . by Matt

Fucking USA
Korean folk singer of “Fucking USA!”

It seems like the lasting legacy of President Roh of South Korea is to be anti-Americanism. This Asia Times Online article quotes US In Korea site owner and Occidentalism commenter ‘Isaac Roberts’.

SEOUL – As the administration of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun winds down and assumes its “lame duck” status, the question of its historical legacy is coming to the fore. Of all the issues that Roh has faced as president, two themes have dominated from the very beginning – the Internet and anti-Americanism.

Blogs and Internet chat rooms were the genesis of Roh’s campaign. They brought a virtually unknown candidate to the presidency. With little background in national politics, without an prestigious education and from a less than privileged background, Roh could not have been elected without an overwhelming youth vote and its Internet coordination.

Today, Roh-Sa-Mo (the Korean-language abbreviation for the Roh Lover’s Society) has become an Internet legend. On polling day, bulletin boards, chat rooms and cell-phone text messages urged eligible voters to vote for Roh, boosting the usually complacent youth vote. Perhaps for the first time in the Internet age, a dedicated band of “netizens” had influenced an election result. But four years on, with the US-South Korea relations under constant pressure, blogs and Internet chat rooms may leave Korea’s first “Internet president” with a less favorable legacy.

Parallel to Roh’s Internet-based victory was the growth of a more sinister form of Internet-based political consciousness – anti-Americanism. After a June 2002 accident involving a US military vehicle, which resulted in the deaths of two South Korean middle-school students, Korean-language anti-American websites, chat rooms and blogs flooded the ‘Net.

Despite apologies ranging from those involved in the accident all the way up the chain of command to US President George W Bush, anti-Americanism continued to spread rapidly. With South Koreans spending an average of more than 47 hours online per month, according to Internet monitor ComScore, making the leap from the Web to everyday life was only a matter of time.

Roh has used anti-Americanism and anti-Japanism cynically in his campaigns. Like Kim Jong Il, I think his popularity in South Korea is based on him being so reactionary, because he is seen as defying the US and Japan.

Anti-Americanism during the period had a darker side as well. Residents recollect shopkeepers refusing to serve them, harassment on subways and even physical abuse. In one widely reported and particularly disturbing event, two American servicemen were abducted from a Seoul subway station by a throng of university students, removed to a university campus and forced to admit to “crimes” against Korea. Anti-Americanism particularly affected those there to defend South Korea, the United States Forces in Korea (USFK) and their dependants.

Since that time American expatriate residents have lived with anti-Americanism popping its ugly head up in every issue under the Roh administration, ranging from the esthetic value of a statue of General Douglas MacArthur in a rather remote park to the relocation of US military headquarters away from Yongsan, in downtown Seoul.

Unfortunately for Roh, the Internet continues to promote anti-Americanism as his most enduring legacy. Translated and interpreted, the Korean-language anti-American websites, blogs and chat rooms that were once at the core of his support base are beginning to filter through to the United States. More and more Americans are catching up with the situation in South Korea. In a country that remains far behind South Korea in Internet connectivity, few care about an Internet-based election victory, but many care about anti-Americanism.

Isaac Roberts (not his real name) manages the website USinKorea.org, a site dedicated to exposing what he views as the hypocrisy of South Korean anti-Americanism. The website is replete with images of anti-American demonstrations, translations of anti-American pop songs, and extracts from the South Korean media.

It receives a steady stream of interest from users in both South Korea and the United States. While Internet statistics show that Roberts’ site is not overly popular, with an average of 2,400 views per day, they also show that users look through a considerable amount of the content.

What started out as a personal project to inform Americans unfamiliar with Korea as to how “the commitment they offer to Korea each year is received in that society” is making the jump from the Internet to politics. Sites such as USinKorea.org have become a source of on-the-ground information for campaigners on the other side of the Pacific.

Roberts’ site provides human-rights campaigners and other lobby groups in Washington with an informed on-the-ground source. Targeted mail by these lobby groups give the website even further reach, until ultimately one 15-minute view by a political adviser sets the political dominoes in action. In reference to images on USinKorea.org, an e-mail from a Capitol Hill staffer posted on one of the now many blogs covering events in South Korea noted, “These continuing developments in South Korea worry people in Washington.”

US In Korea is doing good work. I have promised to contribute some translations of articles but I have been unforgivably tardy in doing so (I will get around to it, promise!). The US and Korea relationship will only get better if there is an honest understanding on both sides. On the US side it is time to drop the delusion that Koreans put value on US actions in the Korean War. Removing the US soldiers should help because their presence hurts Korean pride.

11 Responses to “Legacy of President Roh: Anti-Americanism”

  1. comment number 1 by: torren

    There needs to be more Korean language sites like this so the ones actually brainwashed can see some truth :/

  2. comment number 2 by: tomato

    The name of the game is Korean purism.
    Remember the last time a COUNTRY tried to bind people by race(ethnicity). EIN VOLK, EIN REICH, EIN FUEHRER! DEUTSCHLAND ERWACHE! SIEG HEIL!

    Oh, maybe the last time was led by Milosevic instead of Hitler?

    Gives me the creeps anyhow.

  3. comment number 3 by: georgyporgy

    Alas, here comes “Fucking USA” after “Fuck Japan”!
    Why does the national pride of Koreans always take such an immature, unsophisticated form?

  4. comment number 4 by: だりん

    I personally predict that he will be labaled a criminal after his term is up like so many of his predicesors. After these mid-term elections it seems very apparent that the people of S. Korea do not approve of him any more then we do. His 20% approval rating also reflects that same view.

  5. comment number 5 by: georgyporgy

    I still can’t forget what happened one day while I was in Seoul a couple of years ago. I made friends with a US officer in a Korean class. His biological mother was a Korean, but he was adopted by American parents when he was a baby (i.e., he was “入養児”).
    One day, we were in a subway sitting next to each other. Since neither of us looked very different from Koreans (of course, he was not wearing an uniform), one radical student approached us and handed in a flyer with an agitation againt the presence of the US forces stationed in Korea.
    Taking a look at it, he made a long face…
    Since I had known that he loves both Korea, where he was born, and US, where he was raised, I was reluctant but could not help asking:
    “If the interests of the two countries go against each other, what will you do?”
    His answer was very simple.
    “I’m an American.”

    Although I lived in the US for several years for graduate education, I’m not really pro US in every respect. Above all, I’m sick of their naive belief that what they believe to be “democracy” should be appreciated in every corner of the world, and the fact that they are trying to impose their value system upon other cultures (i.e. “Americanization”) under the disguise of “globalization.”
    However, when I witnessed some Korean radicalists trying to pull down the statue of Douglas MacArthur at Liberty Park in Incheon two years ago, the forgetfulness (or historical “revisionism”) of such Koreans started to bug me even more.
    Who saved the Republic of Korea when they were about to be driven out of the Peninsula 56 years ago?

  6. comment number 6 by: stumpjumper

    One of my best friends is a Korean who immigrated to U.S. when he was 10 years old with his father. He spent his teenage years in a rough neighbor hood and experienced fair amount of racism and all other stuff (one of his best friend joined white supremacy group, Ouch!).

    Now he is in late 20s and somewhat resents U.S. and the government. His mother still lives in Korea, so he visits her time to time, but every time he goes back to Korea he is treated as “American”.

    It is sad and kind of unimaginable for me, but once he told me that he does not have a place that he can call “home”.

  7. comment number 7 by: usinkorea

    I haven’t done much with the site the last few weeks myself.

    It usuaully comes in spurts as do the flares in anti-US activity — with a flare being when more average Koreans are willing to entertain the hate either actively or through watching (and feeding) a media frenzy.

    I would say I agree with the one commenter — Roh can thank his election victory to his anti-US credintials. It wasn’t the only reason people voted for him, but it did push him over the top clearly.

    However, once he started pushing his agenda, and has kept doing so, AND the US government decided it would not just “endure” but would actual take Roh up on his effort, because it fit in with their gorwing desire to reconfigure the US military global position post-9/11…

    ….Roh’s anti-US habit became a liability.

    South Korean society loves to be anti-US

    but they are not willing to pay the price and risk to demand the US military leave or the US leave them alone economically…..

    That is a big, key understanding.

  8. comment number 8 by: ponta

    more average Koreans are willing to entertain the hate

    This happens to be exactly how 呉善花( 오선화 O Seonhwa),an ethinic Korean professor, analyze Korean culture.But it(the entertaining the hate) is hard to understand for people outside of Korea.

  9. comment number 9 by: youmustbesojelous

    um…i think you are very one sided animals….
    Japan has as much haters as Korea and you people dont see the whole picture do you?
    hey ponta, ‘entertaining the hate?l; id hate to know where you get your information from…your own head?
    im not interested in the content of this site…
    just pissing all the people off. its fun. and you guys (especially matt) can stop keeping your japanese ethnicity a secret. Matt, living in Aus? sure living here, but your obviously Japanese. people know these things. were not dumb.

  10. comment number 10 by: ponta

    呉善花 is an ethnic Korean. I think she is talking about a person just like you.
    I tell you, most Japanese do not give a damn about Korea and Koreans.
    Koreans are not hated, but it seems some Koreans love to imagine that they are hated, just like you. I just hope Koreans do not give a damn about Japan.

    Just calm down. And stop blaming everything on Japan.
    I am sorry to say this, but honestly speaking you just look stupid, unlike many wise ethnic Koreans.


  11. comment number 11 by: wiesunja

    Koreans like youmustbesojealous are really pathetic…but funny as well too, just like most Koreans. They don’t add hardly anything in terms of intellectual value, but their stupidity and jealousy-fed bigotry is quite entertaining and funny.

    It’s funny how youmustbesojealous automatically wants anyone who criticizes Korea to be Japanese. Man, Koreans are like psychotic stalkers….like McCarthy in the 50’s. They probably think the Japanese are the ones who burned the Daegu subway last year, who knocked over the Sampoong Dept. Store, who caused the Songsu bridge to fall over, who caused Switzerland to beat Korea in the World Cup, who cause Hyundai to build such utter piece of junk cars, who cause Koreans to get caught bribing and screaming like rude children, etc…

    Yep, it is impossible for a white or black man to think Koreans are idiotic, bigoted, inferiority-complex ridden imbeciles. Hahahaha…keep dreaming.