23 February 2007

US cedes control of South Korean military

Word has gotten in that the United States has reached an agreement to transfer South Korea's wartime military command back to the Koreans by 2012. The original plan called for a quicker transfer by 2009, but the Koreans were not too comfortable with the idea, given constant North Korean threats. A new pact spelling out the terms of the two nations' alliance will replace the current US command.

This also goes hand-in-hand with decreased US military presence in South Korea. When I was visiting the Korean DMZ in 2004, I was told that the US was in the midst of transferring all forward positions to the South Korean forces, and moving its operations further south. (Part of this involves building a new megabase 40 miles south of Seoul, something opposed by many, including residents and activists. CodePink's Medea Benjamin went to South Korea last fall just to oppose this base.)

This deals a bad blow to the Confucian mindsets of South Korea's conservatives and their Korean-American brothers, who have always looked to the United States, preferably under Republican rule, as the "older brother" to look up and worship. They have constantly told me that they support the Republicans because the Democrats would call for military spending cuts (and therefore decreased American presence in South Korea), but the most sweeping US military cuts on the Korean peninsula was made by none other than that Republican "war hero," W.

I always remind the Korean conservatives and the Korean-Americans that the W regime is notorious for dishonoring agreements with foreign nations, and that depending on the US for the control of the South Korean armed forces is even more risky. I also tell them that when South Korea offered 3,000 soldiers for W's Iraq War as a sign of gratitude for the US role in the Korean War, few of their American conservative idols were grateful. (In fact, most American conservatives were asking to re-deploy Korea-based US troops to Iraq instead.) I even tell them that if the Koreans don't want to control their own armed forces, perhaps they should consider giving up the rest of their sovereignty, and joining the United States of America as the 51st State. Hopefully they remember how humiliating it was the last time around, when they signed treaties in 1905 and 1910 to join the Japanese Empire.