I’m pretty familiar with the situation in South Korea. Koreans in general aren’t the most tolerant people towards foreigners. The fact that a large foreign military force exists on their property does eat many of them up and there’s that prevailing undertone of tension. This tension erupts whenever there’s some sort of international incident involving the US and you’ll generally see protests from college students who really should be studying, but because college education in Korea is a joke and these people have way too much time on their hands because hardly any of these students show up for class.
Anti-American protests in Korea are not new and they protest about everything. For example, when American Apollo Ohno won the gold medal in Speed skating during the Olympics (beating a South Korean skater who was disqualified for pushing Ohno away), South Korea erupted in protest. They blamed the Americans for “embarrassing the pride of the Korean people” and claimed that the US was out to get them. The judge who disqualified Ohno was Australian, but the Korean press didn’t mention this. Koreans were and still are upset and have dubbed the event “Ohnogate”. They made fun of Ohno because of his mixed White/Japanese heritage (Koreans aren’t too fond of the Japanese for obvious reasons). The worst was when some Korean entertainers flew to Seattle, Ohno’s hometown, and egged and vandalized the Laundromat that Ohno’s father runs. That’s pretty low, but these acts were widely praised by the Korean press.
The Shin and Shim deaths are very tragic. I do think Walker and Nino should be tried in Korean court, but I doubt they’d be guaranteed a fair trial. Korean media would have you believe that the Nino and Walker were drunk at the time, a claim proven by both Korean and American authorities to be false. All investigations have led to the conclusion that this tragic event was indeed an accident. But the Korean press has their own agenda and truth is not one of them.
I find the whole coverage of this event to be laughable. First off, it happened in June, during the beginning of the World Cup. But there was hardly any mention of the incident until AFTER the games ended, then the Korean press turned on it full force. Why were there no protests during the duration of the World Cup? Why mention everything afterwards? Why did wait until July and August to express their anger? That’s just strange to me.
As well, I should also mention that there are about 10,000 traffic related deaths in South Korea each year, the highest per capita in the world. Anyone who has driven in that country knows how treacherous Korean drivers are and that pedestrian are NOT given the right of way in any circumstance. Most of these traffic death cases are settled by payments, so these cases are never brought to trial and everything is considered finished. The US army did offer payments (over $160,000 each) to the Shin and Shim families (something also not mentioned by the Korean press) AND they agreed to put Walker and Nino on trial.
Manni mentions that “800 USFK crimes per year” figure, cited by the dubious FRSO.org (Freedom Road Socialist Organization) site (there are hundreds of anti-US sites originating from Korea, BTW). I think these claims are a high and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, especially considering the source. I wouldn’t deny that the USFK commit crimes. They’re humans, after all. I met quite a few of them when I went to Korea and I found some to be assholes, but most were pretty cool. It’s going to be like that everywhere.
However, there are countless more crimes committed by Koreans against foreigners (including USFK personnel) that are never tried:
*An American doctor was murdered in Seoul a few years ago. His killer hasn’t seen justice, and if he has, it was probably a slap on the wrist.
*A Canadian woman was rapped in Daejon during the World Cup and her attacker never saw jail time.
*This summer, three USFK soldiers were kidnapped, robber, beaten and forced to watch the anti-American rally that their abductors dragged them to.
There are plenty of other incidents and they’re never mentioned in the press, but I can even go into more personal examples. A friend of mine (Turkish guy living in Seoul) was punched in the face by an angry Korean man for no reason other than he was white. The gutless puke ran away. Hell, even I was harassed in Seoul on the subway or on the street just because I’m a foreigner. And don’t even holding hands with a Korean girl on a street if you don’t look Korean. That’ll get you a lot of nasty glares, insults and if you run into an angry drunk Korean male (or group of them), perhaps a beating.
I love Korea and its culture and have lots of friends there, but there is a big tone of hypocrisy there and it should be brought up. US forces leaving would be exactly what Dear Leader wants. I’m sure he’s looking at the current state of things and grinning uncontrollably and he should be, especially with many young Koreans blaming the US for a divided Korea.
P.S. ROK has a strong military, but they are no match for the DPRK military machine. If US forces leave, then the ROK can kiss all the investment that goes into the country along with it. Nobody outside (and none of the higher ups in) Korea has faith that the ROK’s forces can combat or counter the North alone. That’s why I’m very worried about the present situation there. I don’t want to see the ROK swept up in a jingoistic patriotic furor that would lead to its fall. Deep down most Koreans know this too, but sometimes they act with emotion first and logic later…