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"South Korea must choose sides"

September 8th, 2006 . by Gerry-Bevers

Corey Richardson has written an excellent article for the online version of Asia Times, entitled, “South Korea must choose sides.” Mr. Richardson is one of the founders of “The Korean Liberator” blog.

I do not know if Corey Richardson is the same Richardson who has claimed that “Dokdo” is Korean territory, but if he is, then he and I seem to disagree basically only on Dokdo’s legal status because his article in the Asia Times seemed to have summed up the problems and concerns surrounding Korea quite well. Here is one quote that I especially liked:

One might argue that clear and firm US security guarantees for a reunified Korea would be able to dissuade any government from choosing the nuclear option. If making decisions based purely on logic the answer would be probably yes.

Unfortunately, the recent Korean leadership has established a record of being motivated more by emotional and nationalistic factors than logical or realistic ones. Antics over Dokdo and the Yasukuni Shrine and alienating the US serve as examples. But the continuation of the “Sunshine Policy” tops those.

Instead of admitting they’ve been sold a dead horse, the Roh administration continued riding the rotting and bloated beast known as the Sunshine Policy, until all that are left today are a pile of bones, a bit of dried skin, and a few tufts of dirty hair. Roh, however, is still in the saddle, if not as firmly after North Korea’s recent missile tests.

Though I liked Mr. Richardson’s article in general, I think South Korea should take over more of the burden of its own defense. Mr. Richardson brings up legitimate concerns, but there are now places in the world where US forces are much more urgently needed than they are in South Korea. It is time that Korea’s free ride ended.


61 Responses to “"South Korea must choose sides"”

  1. comment number 1 by: tomato

    I guess Young Rocco made himself clear after all.

    A: The U.S. provides a minority of the troops
    B. The U.S. does not account for the majority of South Korea’s military expenditures.
    C. South Korea by itself already spends 4 times as much on its military than does North Korea.

    So you are saying that US is burdening S Korea too much. US is making S Korea spend unnesessary defense fees. The alliance must be benefiting the US, but not S Korea, you say.

    D.South Korea contributes less to the U.S. military than does Japan, but the Korea-U.S. alliance is different from the Japan-U.S. alliance in that it:
    1. Gives the U.S. wartime command of the Korean Army.
    2. Has necessitated Korea to send troops to Vietnam.
    3. Has necessitated Korea to send troops to Iraq.
    4. By implication involves the Korean military in other major areas of
    conflict and thereby exposes Korea to certain risks (i.e. Islamic
    Terrorism) that she would not be exposed to under normal
    circumstances.

    Likewise, you are saying that S Korea is over-burdened and even endangering herself because of the US. It seems like you are blaming US on the above…so S Korea can’t self-govern, right? It was made to make these choices by the US, you say.

  2. comment number 2 by: GarlicBreath

    Tomato, you will notice that Koreans like “youngrocco” will find a way to blame the USA for everything. (that is when they dont blame their neighbor Japan)

  3. comment number 3 by: YoungRocco

    Ponta:

    Your logical faculties have improved a great deal.

    I applaud you.

    But you still got a few kinks to hammer out. Let’s see what you got:

    You talk as if there is no threat from China.

    This couldn’t be further from the truth. By its very nature as a large country, China is an implied threat. However, in the absence of compelling evidence, claiming that China is the biggest enemy of South Korea is a mistake.

    If you believe that China is more than simply a hypothetical threat to South Korea, give me your reasons for believing so.

    But your comment was very suggestive as to where South Korea was heading

    Well…if South Koreans don’t waste their time villifying China, so be it. South Korea has not aggrieved China in the past, so what reason do we have to be paranoid?

    Hmmm….perhaps you’re worried that China will attempt to…ahem…”modernize” Japan. You know, return the favor you did them several decades back…

    Since South Korean people want the unification, it is natural for them to choose not to side with USA

    This assertion is based on what? What is your reasoning behind this?

    Have a great day.

  4. comment number 4 by: tomato

    South Korea has not aggrieved China in the past

    Your beloved president Park was an officer in the Japanese Imperial Army occupying Manchuria, as were many Koreans.

    Now don’t tell me that they were forced to participate! The ones I’m talking about are officers- they graduated from the military academy, which admits people, not recruit them.

  5. comment number 5 by: YoungRocco

    Tomato:

    You crack me up everytime you write a post, young man.

    Heh heh, but seriously, you’re mistaken again.

    So you are saying that US is burdening S Korea too much. US is making S Korea spend unnesessary defense fees. The alliance must be benefiting the US, but not S Korea, you say.

    Nope, not saying that at all.

    I’m saying that South Korea is not a free rider.

    Likewise, you are saying that S Korea is over-burdened and even endangering herself because of the US

    Dude, I have enough words in my mouth without you trying to add more! Stop it, you silly billy. 😉

    I am saying that whereas Japan’s alliance with the U.S. deals almost exclusively with defending Japan, Korea’s alliance with the U.S. involves moving troops to areas of conflict outside of Korea.

    Any claim you make about Korea being a free rider in relation to Japan must take the extra-territorial factor of the US.-ROK alliance into account.

    Unfortunately for you, you’ve failed to do so.

    If you have any other points you’re confused about, don’t hesitate to reply.

  6. comment number 6 by: YoungRocco

    Tomato:

    You’re a cool guy, you know that?

    I like you alot and this is why I will work with you until you get on the right path.

    So let’s get to work!

    Young Rocco:

    South Korea has not aggrieved China in the past

    Tomato:

    Your beloved president Park was an officer in the Japanese Imperial Army occupying Manchuria, as were many Koreans.

    That’s funny, cause according to the history books I’ve read, the state known as South Korea did not exist when Park Chung Hee joined the Japanese Imperial Army…

    But I’ve heard stories of historical revision in Japanese textbooks, perhaps you read one of them….

    Tomato, you’re introducing a red herring. Park Chung Hee being in the JIA does nothing to refute my claim.

    Have a fantastic day, Tomato.

  7. comment number 7 by: ponta

    Young Rocco:
    Thanks

    However, in the absence of compelling evidence, claiming that China is the biggest enemy of South Korea is a mistake.

    Sure, China may not be the biggest enemy of South Korea.(BTW then who is the biggest enemy in your opinion? South Korea can take care of North Korea by herself. then which country is the biggest enemy? Japan? USA?)

    A

    If you believe that China is more than simply a hypothetical threat to South Korea, give me your reasons for believing so.

    I am saying I thought China was a hypothetical threat to South Korea, and to counter it, I think she needs US help.
    Okay, now you agree that China is a hypothetical threat.
    Then you seem to be saying that though China is a threat to South Korea, South Korea has not needed US help as much as USA has been giving to South Korea.ーーーThat is , USA has been helping more than necessary , therefore, it is not that Korea has been a free rider, but it is USA who has been giving unnecessary and unwanted help for South Korea. Is that what you are saying?
    I’d be happy if I could have your answer to this question.

    South Korea has not aggrieved China in the past, so what reason do we have to be paranoid?

    South Korea does not have to be paranoid about China, (though I think she
    IS paranoid about Japan under ultra-nationalist influence). But do you really think South Korea military without US help sufficient enough to counter a hypothetical enemy like China with a big military ?

    .perhaps you’re worried that China will attempt to…ahem…”modernize” Japan. You know, return the favor you did them several decades back…

    China is more realistic and pragmatic than you think. It is less likely that China will attack Japan as long as Japan is backed up with US military.

    Since South Korean people want the unification, it is natural for them to choose not to side with USA

    This assertion is based on what? What is your reasoning behind this

    “South Korean people want the unification,”
    This assertion is based on the observation I have made from what the both
    Governments say and the Korea media, and Korea blogs.
    If you have any evidence to the contrary, please tell me.

    (0)”it is natural for them to choose not to side with USA”
    This assertion is based on the following premises.
    (1)according (my interpretation of ) youngrocco, China is not a threat to S K to such a degree that South Korea needs help from USA by siding with USA in particular.(US presence is not necessary)
    (2)North Korea and China consider the US troop presence as a nuisance for the unification(→US presence makes NK and Chian hesitate to realize the unification.)
    (3)South Korea people want the unification to be materialized.

    From (1) ~(3), (0) follows.
    Nothing is hidden behind, I guess.
    .

  8. comment number 8 by: YoungRocco

    Ponta:

    I think that despite are differences in our earlier conversations, we are beginning to see eye to eye a bit.

    Thanks for your posts.

    Sure, China may not be the biggest enemy of South Korea.(BTW then who is the biggest enemy in your opinion? South Korea can take care of North Korea by herself. then which country is the biggest enemy? Japan? USA?)

    This is an excellent question. In my view, there is not one single country that in and of itself poses “the greatest threat to South Korea.” Even a Japan that re-militarizes and attains a more robust military and diplomatic stature is not a threat to South Korea–so long as re-militarization is not accompanies by militance.

    In my estimation, I would say that conflict in the region in general is bad for South Korea. Korea is the only country in the region with geoproximity to all three major powers, so it is likely that in a future conflict between the three powers, Korea would be a battle ground.

    Then you seem to be saying that though China is a threat to South Korea, South Korea has not needed US help as much as USA has been giving to South Korea.ーーーThat is , USA has been helping more than necessary , therefore, it is not that Korea has been a free rider, but it is USA who has been giving unnecessary and unwanted help for South Korea. Is that what you are saying?

    Not at all. The U.S.-ROK alliance is valuable and I hope it will last a long time. However, we must be clear in establishing what is implied by “Free Rider.” We can both acknowledge that the U.S. is South Korea’s most valuable ally. The U.S., in maintaining a troop presence in South Korea, not only helps us defend ourselves from the North, but also, to a certain extent, helps to keep down tensions between China-Japan and South Korea.

    However, to say that a country is a “free rider” is not just to say that a country is receiving help. (If receiving help were the sole determinant of a country being a “free rider” then the U.S. would be a free rider in Iraq) Designating a country a “free rider” implies that said country is either helpless and/or lazy. I think that Korea’s military expenditures, its active troop preparation, and its aid to the U.S. in foreign theatres of war, do a lot to show that South Korea is neither helpless or lazy when it comes to self-defense and cooperating with its allies.

    As to the assertion that the U.S. military is needed to defend from China, that may be true to a certain extent, but we need to look at the other factors involved. the relationship between South and North Korea, regardless of the Sunshine Policy, is still one of the world’s most tense. If Korea were to peacefully unify and gain a border with China, I think the military tension in the region would be greatly reduced not built up. The. U.S. and China at least have diplomatic relations and common ground, whereas there is no common ground between North Korea and the U.S.

    In short, a hypothetical China threat is less threatening than a real North Korean threat.

    But do you really think South Korea military without US help sufficient enough to counter a hypothetical enemy like China with a big military

    This is why I’ve clearly stated that China is a big implied threat. A country that has power will have the urge to exercise that power, yet power alone does not make a country dangerous. To ascertain the threat from China, you have to analyze its diplomatic behavior and economic goals. In relation to South Korea, I would say that both of these factors have overall been positive.

    China is not a threat to S K to such a degree that South Korea needs help from USA by siding

    This is why I asked Matt to define what the “sides” were. There is no war between the U.S. and China, so why have people been trying to set up a dichotomy between the two powers? War is not even on the distant horizon, so I don’t see a need for South Korea to choose sides between China and the United States–especially when the U.S. and China work together.

    As for unification, the U.S. troop presence is not a problem–so long as the U.S. is willing to expend the diplomatic/military energy to aid in reunification.

    f the U.S. states its objectives for a unified Korea clearly, then unification will probably not worry China too much. A peaceful reunification will result in a troop drawdown. On the other hand, if the U.S. keeps fighting wars–Iran anyone?–then its presence in the region might encourage China to resist unification.

    Well, these are my thoughts.

    Thanks.

  9. comment number 9 by: tomato

    ponta>

    He’s disregarding the fact that the current Korean regime and probably the majority of S Koreans are anti-US, and of course, anti-Japan (I would say Japan-haters).

    So, I’m not buying any of his arguments-it’s just his peculiar thoughts, and not what S Korea is heading right now.

  10. comment number 10 by: ponta

    If UFSK has been necessary,(in youngrocco’s word, valuable/need to some extent) to South Korea, and

    U.S. contribution to U.S. ROK alliance: (roughly) 1,980,000,000
    Korean contribution to U.S. Rok alliance 1,320,000,000

    it seems clear that South Korea is a free rider.
    However, probably it is not a matter of whether that is the case or not, but it seems a matter of whether calling South Korea a free rider hurts Korean pride or not.
    And whether Korea should pay more largely depend on USA’s appreciation of ROK-USA alliance.

    USA has been kind.

    …………USA….S Korea ..UN
    Land…..50%…..40%……10%…
    Sea…….85%…..7%………8%
    Air……..93%…..5%………2%
    Deaths..50%…..47%…….3%
    (Troop commitment in land, sea and air in Korean War/from page249
    And yet, Korean people tend to ignore the US contribution and tend to only emphasize Vietnam, the deployment of Korean troops to Iraq .
    I am interested to see how much further USA will tolerate Korea’s unreasonable demand.(See Those thankless Americans
    And I am sure other allies are watching US reaction. US dignity depends on it.

    As for China (and North Korea as well ) I think there is a big perceptional gap between South Korean and USA-Japan.
    Japan’s policy should be obvious: I think Japan knows peace is not for free. In proportion to China’s increase of military spending , Japan should built up stronger military and stronger tie with USA, while diplomatically keeping friendly relationship with China.
    Korea seems different. That is okay. That is Korea problem. But I am afraid
    that is not what non-Korean and yet pro-Korean people are hoping for for the sake of Korean future.

  11. comment number 11 by: vsepr

    YoungRocco

    I have been reading your opinions and finally find out Korea, indeed, is a free-rider comparing with Japan.

    I will give you 3 simple facts.

    1. Japan pays $4,410,000,000 per year for the alliance while ROK pays $842,800,000. (2002)
    2. This includes 2 billion dollars as “Omoiyari Yosan (host nation support without legal ground).”
    3. Japan have paid 110 billion dollars of USFJ expenditure since 1978.

    Considering what Korea has done to USFK, it is quite understandable that USFK is going to step back to Pusan virtually leaving Seoul, located only 60km off from the border, naked to DPRK’s cannons.