22 March 2006

An unhealthy relationship

This morning, I've been leaving some comments on the ReBelle Nation blog, in regards to a post on North Korean human rights dilemma. After exchanging comments with Christy Cole, the blog keeper, I'm having some thoughts on my own. After all, living in Los Angeles - the largest Korean metropolitan area in the Western world - and interacting with its Korean community for better or worse daily, I have some thoughts of my own.

The US considers the Korean peninsula a strategically important location, and has considered South Korea a key ally. However, the status of current relationship does not bear that out. For example, the US has the following gripes:
  • South Korea's current leftist government isn't helping American efforts to pressure North Korea.
  • South Korean companies (Samsung, Hyundai, etc.) are making a killing in the US market, while Americans are largely shut out of South Korea.
  • Younger Koreans seem to be less than grateful for US military action during the Korean War, assaulting American GIs stationed in South Korea, and even trying to destroy a statue of General Douglas MacArthur in Incheon.
  • Many Korean women are entering the US illegally, often through Canadian borders, to engage in prostitution.
The Koreans seem to have their own gripes.
  • The US supported South Korea's past fascist regimes (including a massacre in 1980), and slowed down its democratization.
  • W treats the current president, Roh Moo-Hyun, like dirt. W is very unpopular anyway in South Korea (pretty much like most of the world).
  • US military personnel appear to be above the law, immune to South Korean courts for their crimes while stationed in Korea (including crushing two girls to death with a tank in 2002).
  • In general, the US seems to treat South Korea more as a protectorate than as an equal, sovereign partner.
  • South Koreans must endure a humiliating visa interview and a lengthy application process to visit the US, and the only place to apply is the US embassy in Seoul (not even a lousy consulate elsewhere).
These complaints are government- and official-level. I have a lot more.
  • Just like the US encouraged South Korean fascism, the Koreans are encouraging right-wing politics in the US. The Koreans are the Cubans of the West Coast - they vote Republican, and support right-wing causes with their mega-churches (and KCCC, or Korean Campus Crusade for Christ), the Unification Church, organizations like the New Right Foundation (which seeks right-wing resurgence both in South Korea and the US), and individuals like former Congressman Jay Kim and Counsel John Yoo.
  • The seeds of this development were first planted when American Christian missionaries turned Korea into their backyard a century ago. Even today, it's the Christians who are most willing to overthrow the Roh regime and serve W's interests. Yet the Christians sell themselves as being patriotic to Korea, based on their anti-Japanese activities during the colonial era, when in fact, they actually were looking for a more Christian colonial power, like a Republican US, instead of independence.
  • Koreans who make money in America act as if they are whites - treating blacks and Latinos like dirt. There is a reason why Koreatown was targeted in the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and the Korean storeowners still haven't learned a lesson.
  • The Koreans are fiercely nationalistic, both on the left and on the right (though the two brands of nationalism differ immensely). The nationalism level is dangerously high - I only see similar levels of nationalism in the US, and never in other countries.
  • The Koreans, along with a few other immigrant groups, are responsible for keeping Southern California more misogynistic and homophobic than Northern California.
  • North Korean human rights, while a serious issue, is, for now, a special-interest pet project, pushed by the Korean right-wingers, and their American counterparts like Sam Brownback and Concerned Women for America, who don't have genuine concern for the North Koreans - only looking to advance a Christian, anti-choice agenda. Ted Kennedy is pretty much the token liberal on this issue.
In any case, this relationship is far from healthy. This relationship only benefits the far right of the two countries, as well as a few select mega-corporations like Samsung. The average American and the average Korean both lose out. Even the rank-and-file Korean-Americans will lose out, when the new, draconian Sensenbrenner immigration bill, which makes helping illegal immigrants a crime, goes into effect (though I must say that given the Korean-American support of the Republican agenda, I have little sympathy for their current whining about this bill).

I've previously described South Korea as my father, and the US as my spouse. It is in my best interest to see that the two enjoy a healthy relationship, not a warped, slanted one that they have now. (Think about it, when your father and your husband are encouraging each other to make your life miserable, that's NOT good.) And as long as the two keep building a relationship based only on the concerns of the far right, I am going to lose in a big way. It is a shame when South Korea sends its outstanding baseball team to the World Baseball Classic, and I dare not to go to the ballpark and cheer for them, because I can't stand the thought of being with the supporters of this unhealthy relationship. And when the sight of a Korean Air or Asiana 747 coming into Los Angeles brings me dread, instead of joy, that's the sign that things are seriously on the wrong track.