Can This Alliance Be Saved?

The Future of U. S.-ROK Relations

 

David M. Lenard

 

Summary: As it passes its fifty-year anniversary, the ¡°blood alliance¡± of the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) is showing ominous cracks.  Contrary to popular belief in both countries, the future viability of the alliance is not guaranteed, nor is a South Korean victory assured if reunification occurred by military means.  The North Korean ¡°nuclear breakout¡± of recent months raises the highly dangerous possibility of a North Korean nuclear monopoly in Korea at the same time that the U. S./ROK alliance is flagging.  If the alliance breaks down outright, the nightmarish scenario of a surprise attack by the North, in a ¡°Saigon 1975¡±-style attempt to settle the Korean issue by force, cannot be excluded.  Worse still, if such an attack takes place, it will almost certainly include the threatened or actual use of nuclear weapons.  To avert catastrophe, urgent action by both governments to repair the alliance is required.

 

About the Author: David M. Lenard (B. S., M. S.) is a freelance writer based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  He has frequently written on Korean affairs since 1997-98, when he lived and worked in the ROK.

 


The June 13th Incident

 

Without attempting to excuse mishandling of Korean issues by the present U. S. administration, it is clear that the main factor now weakening the alliance is a generational sea change in South Korean attitudes towards the United States.  Although signs of this change have been visible for some time, it was greatly catalyzed by a gruesome traffic accident on June 13th, 2002, and the sequence of events which followed it.  In this incident, a mine-clearing vehicle driven by American soldiers during an exercise ran over and killed two Korean junior high school girls, Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-sun.

 

The U. S. government expressed regret for the incident almost immediately[1] and eventually apologies were made by all levels of the U. S. government and U. S. military, including an apology in November 2002 by President Bush.[2]  Other measures taken included compensation on the order of 195 million Korean won (equivalent to over $150,000) given to the two families.[3]  U. S. Forces Korea (USFK) took specific measures to console the families and memorialize the two girls[4] and revised military procedures to prevent any similar future accidents.[5]

 

But none of these measures seemed to mollify growing public anger in South Korea, particularly after the two soldiers involved, Sgts. Walker and Nino, were acquitted in a court-martial proceeding accusing them of negligent homicide.  Two separate panels, conducted in front of Korean witnesses, concluded that the military prosecutor had not proved negligence beyond a reasonable doubt.[6]  However, most of the Korean public regarded this result as a whitewash: acquittal of the guilty by the guilty.  A series of increasingly strident protests, focused around the US Embassy in Seoul, began.

 

Although violent protest is a tradition in South Korea and is not invariably directed at the U. S., the extreme character of these protests was still shocking to foreign observers, such as one reporter who was stunned to see a Catholic nun wearing a ¡°Fuck U. S.¡± button on her habit.  Demonstrators typically blamed the U. S. for the division of the peninsula and expressed sympathy for North Korea.  They burned American flags and held banners with slogans like ¡°Yankee Go Home¡± and ¡°Anti-American¡±.  A poisonous anti-American atmosphere began to grow in the country that extended well beyond mere free speech.  Restaurants and cafes began to bar Americans.[7]  Numerous incidents of violence against U. S. military personnel occurred.  The most serious of these incidents included a knife attack against an Army lieutenant colonel in Seoul (ironically, he had stayed late in his office to finish a report about another anti-American attack the night before)[8], a knifing of a female Army sergeant major during a morning jog near Taegu[9], and a brief abduction of an American soldier by Korean student radicals on their way to a protest.[10] 

 

Although there were also large counter-demonstrations in Seoul which denounced Kim Jong-Il and expressed support for U. S. troops[11], it is nonetheless clear that large segments of the ROK population feel increasing antipathy to the U. S. troop presence in the ROK and to U. S. policies generally, a clear change from the relatively recent past.  Increasing numbers of South Koreans are beginning to regard the U. S. as an ¡°imperialistic¡± intruder and North Korea as a hapless victim, if not a friend—the North Koreans are, after all, Korean.  Because South Korea is a democracy, it would be a mistake to discount the possibility of a formal ROK request for U. S. troops to leave the peninsula, if not an outright breakdown of the alliance.  At the same time, it is important to understand that the ROK government has always eschewed such a move, and the newly elected Roh Moo-Hyun administration (contrary to some expectations) appears to be no exception.[12]

 

For the Kim Jong-Il regime, calls for USFK withdrawal must seem like a dream come true.  The Democratic People¡¯s Republic of Korea (DPRK, a. k. a. North Korea) has consistently held for decades that the U. S. troops should leave so that a ¡°democratic¡± government can take power in Seoul.  Sadly, North Korea¡¯s history should make very clear that it does not understand the word ¡°democracy¡± in the way that most of the world does.  Countless accounts of the North¡¯s Stalinist totalitarianism, with its politically induced starvation; slave camps for dissidents and ¡°unreliable¡± citizens; mind-numbing propaganda; and use of terror and violence to maintain order, make it quite clear to outsiders what a DPRK victory in the unfinished Korean civil war would mean for the property and citizens of the ROK.  It is astounding that so many educated South Koreans cannot see the risks of this scenario playing out—but it would not be the first time that ultra-nationalism has led a successful country down a one-way road to oblivion.

 

The deterioration in U. S./ROK relations would be serious enough if it were occurring in a calm international environment, but of course, it is not.  The North Korean nuclear program raises the risks of this situation a hundredfold, because it may cause the DPRK to conclude that an attack on the South could be both militarily successful and supported by ROK citizens.

 

What Are the DPRK¡¯s True Intentions?

 

USFK, as the physical manifestation of the U. S./ROK alliance, is the finger in the dike holding back a Second Korean War.  The DPRK has never renounced its goal of reunifying the peninsula under the Kim family¡¯s control, and never deviated from its strategy of doing so by military means.  Given the North¡¯s well-known travails of the last decade, the possibility of an attack on the South may seem so farfetched to some that it is worth going over the evidence for it in detail.

 

First, the experience of the twentieth century should have taught the world the importance of paying closer attention to a dictatorship¡¯s military capabilities than to its words.  As applied to North Korea, this means that, although the outside world should certainly explore diplomatic options, it also should not lose sight of the DPRK¡¯s military activities in recent years—which are in fact quite disturbing.  Even as the DPRK¡¯s economy collapsed and millions of citizens starved, the North expended vast resources and took desperate political risks to obtain nuclear weapons.  Also, it continued to build up and modernize its armed forces, giving priority to the North Korean People¡¯s Army (NKPA) for food and fuel.[13]  Lastly, for several years, the DPRK has been steadily moving ever-larger portions of its conventional forces, including armor, closer to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.[14]  This deployment is inconsistent with a regime that fears attack by the United States, because it leaves DPRK forces vulnerable to an amphibious flanking attack on the coasts of the Korean peninsula.  But it is consistent with a planned surprise attack on the South.  Indeed, because military movements in North Korea are under constant surveillance, the only way the DPRK can move armor into attack positions without causing alarm is to do it slowly, over a period of many years.  Continued tunneling activities under the DMZ also show aggressive intentions.  Several tunnels have been discovered in the past twenty years, but military experts consider it likely that there are many more as yet undiscovered.  In a war, they would be used to quickly funnel troops behind South Korean defenses.  Such tunnels have no defensive purpose whatsoever.

 

Arguably the most disturbing evidence, however, comes from a North Korean defector, Hwang Jeong-Yeop.  Hwang could hardly have been more highly placed: he was the author of the DPRK's official "juche" philosophy (a sort of militant self-sufficiency mixed with Korean nationalism).  His high position and ideological importance to the DPRK was such that it is difficult to find historical parallels to his 1996 defection.[15]  Hwang ultimately published articles in Korean newspapers in which he tried to persuade skeptical southerners of the existential threat posed by Kim Jong-Il¡¯s government.  According to Hwang, his reason for defection was to ¡°save the Korean nation¡±—not from craven U. S. imperialists, but from the DPRK¡¯s plan to reunify the peninsula by force:

 

North Korea has strong armed forces, nearly twice the number of the South and they have the ability to follow a scorched earth policy in South Korea by utilizing nuclear and chemical weapons delivered by missiles. The rulers in the North can commit any criminal act for their political purposes and do so without any hesitation¡¦if the US withdraws its military and makes the unification issue a domestic one to be settled by the South and North, then North Korea would not hesitate to use force to accomplish their goal. Politicians in South Korea do not take seriously the extraordinary idea that the country is maintained by the presence of the U. S. and fancy themselves as statesmen of an advanced country. How dangerous is this? The Southern politicians should recognize the reality of their situation and behave accordingly.

 

North Korea, while speaking of peaceful unification, concentrates on the policy of unification by warfare. If there is anyone who doubts this then they are the most foolish among fools and have no business or ability to engage in politics...the North believes they can win a war and if the U. S. intervenes they have a plan to attack and destroy Japan. The strategy is to occupy South Korea in a 'blitzkrieg' maneuver and then threaten the U. S. with the annihilation of Japan, should the U. S. intervene. North Korea does not plan simply to occupy the South to unify the country as it sees South Korea as an enemy, so it will pursue a policy of eradication in what it calls a 'merciless class struggle'.[16]

 

The same essay also included one of the most revealing character studies yet published about the ¡°mysterious¡± North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il.  It included this telling observation:

 

He respects Hitler aspiring to become a similar dictator and often uses the word 'blitzkrieg'.

 

Of course, Hitler analogies have lost some of their emotional force in the West due to overuse.  But Hwang had known Kim Jong-Il since childhood, making him a uniquely qualified witness.  In view of the DPRK¡¯s record, which shows rather clearly a glaring disregard for the lives and human rights of Koreans (to say nothing of foreigners—the DPRK routinely describes Americans as ¡°two-legged wolves¡±[17]), it would seem reckless to dismiss outright the possibility of a North Korean attack.  Nonetheless, this is exactly what many South Koreans are now doing:

 

I don't think North Korea is going to aim [nuclear weapons] at South Korea¡¦the North probably built them to protect itself from the United States.—Min Keong-Min[18]

 

If the United States left, I wouldn't mind¡¦there's no way North Korea will attack us with their nuclear weapons. I don't think so. We're the same country. You don't bomb and kill your family. We share the same blood.—Kim Young-Ran[19]

 

Recent polls leave little doubt that an absolute majority of South Koreans, especially those under 35, holds similar opinions.  It should be clear that South Korean public opinion is in fact a problem of equal magnitude to the North Korean ¡°nuclear breakout¡± and demands immediate attention from the highest levels of the U. S. government.  The alternative is to write off South Korea and allow it to be absorbed by the North, as Gerald Ford once had to do with another erstwhile U. S. ally, South Vietnam.

 

The Blame Game: America¡¯s Share

 

Has the Bush administration mishandled Korean policy?  Yes, although it is harder to argue in light of recent events that their record is worse than the Clinton administration¡¯s.  If war breaks out in Korea, future historians will likely regard Clinton¡¯s signing of the 1994 Agreed Framework with the DPRK—hailed at the time as a diplomatic breakthrough that avoided war—as the most serious Korean policy error in decades.  In hindsight, it looks like a sucker deal which not only rescued a despicable regime on the verge of collapse, but gave that regime time to bring its nuclear weapons program to fruition.

 

Examples of mishandling by the Bush administration, however, are not difficult to find either.  First, top administration officials notably lacked experience with East Asia.[20]  Second, the Bush campaign in 2000 staked out a relatively hard-line position on Korea, but did nothing to moderate that position in the face of clear South Korean misgivings regarding a change in policy at a time when the ¡°Sunshine Policy¡± seemed to be bearing fruit.  The administration did not communicate its case to the South Korean public—for example, it could have expressed willingness to moderate its position in light of changing circumstances, or pointed out the obvious similarity between its position and that of conservative elements within the ROK.  Third, the administration¡¯s treatment of then-President Kim Dae-Jung during a visit to Washington—President Bush expressed skepticism about the prospects of the ¡°Sunshine Policy¡±—was perceived as a snub by many Koreans.  Fourth, the administration¡¯s slow response to the June 13th incident, especially the belated apology of President Bush and the manner in which that apology was delivered (as a note read by the US ambassador, not given in person), only added more fuel to an already raging fire.

 

Contrary to the perception of many Koreans, the root cause of this mishandling is not malign intentions (e.g., the geographically and historically absurd[21] notion that ¡°the U. S. wants to weaken Korea by keeping it divided¡±).  Rather, the true cause is something much more prosaic: bureaucratic inertia.  Throughout the 1990s, as the North Korean system began to show obvious cracks, and the South matured politically, America¡¯s Korea policy remained basically unchanged.  In a sense, the U. S. was a victim of its own success: U. S. policymakers did not anticipate that the ROK would win its ¡°competition¡± with the DPRK so decisively that South Koreans would cease to regard North Korea as a threat.  Nor did they foresee seismic shifts in public opinion that resulted from Kim Dae-Jung¡¯s ¡°Sunshine Policy¡±, North/South family reunions, the Pyongyang summit of Kim Jong-Il and then-president Kim Dae-Jung, and the effects of the June 13th incident.

 

As the North Korean nuclear program crisis unfolded in 2002-3, the almost weekly American flip-flops on Korea were painful to watch.  At one point, the Bush administration publicly disavowed military options—a move both unnecessary and highly counterproductive—then reversed itself a short time later.  The U. S. at first refused to talk to North Korea, then agreed to do so only in the multilateral context of the six-way talks held in Beijing in August 2003.  Unfortunately, the meeting only produced more belligerent statements from the DPRK, which not only acknowledged the existence of its ¡°nuclear deterrent force¡±, but brazenly promised to increase it, then contemptuously refused to hold further meetings, despite entreaties from China and others.  Overall, the American track record in the North Korean nuclear crisis has been mixed.  On the plus side, war has been averted; the U. S.-ROK alliance is strained, but intact; and the temptation to bribe the North to fulfill broken promises has been avoided.  On the minus side, the U. S. has failed to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear weapons state, and, perhaps most critically, has not extracted a pledge from the North to refrain from nuclear proliferation.

 

The Blame Game: Korea¡¯s Share

 

To the thousands of emotional demonstrators surrounding the U. S. Embassy in Seoul in late 2002, the killing of two Korean girls by a U. S. military vehicle was a grave crime against Korean people, and neither profuse U. S. apologies nor the fact that the event was accidental altered their opinion.  Ironically, even as the protests went on, countless North Korean girls of the same age were slowly starving, joining at least two million other famine victims in the 1990s alone—a clear example of genocide which raised barely a murmur of complaint in Seoul.  There can be few better examples in modern times of ethnocentric moral blindness than the different standard of judgment South Koreans applied to the two hapless American soldiers with a broken headset,[22] and the amoral Stalinist dictator who imported two Milanese pizza chefs even as millions of his subjects starved like animals.[23]  Koreans generally claim that compassion for the two girls was the main motive behind their protests, but though such compassion surely existed, why was it only applied to the victims of Americans and not to the vastly more numerous (and far less excusable) victims of Kim Jong-Il?

 

The simple answer is that, despite 50 years of breakneck modernization, xenophobic tendencies remain strong in Korean culture.  The roots of such attitudes lie in historic isolation (Korea was almost totally cut off from the outside world until the late 19th century) and ethnic homogeneity, factors which have promoted a tribal, insular attitude towards foreigners and a significant ¡°groupthink¡± tendency.  Another fundamental cause was the education system: history textbooks in the ROK present the Korean War as the United Nations, not the United States, helping Korea—they minimize the preponderance of American troops in UN forces and the crucial political decision by President Truman to resist Kim Il-Sung¡¯s attempt to destroy the ROK.  This distorted portrayal is universally accepted because the same textbooks are used nationwide.  Some commentators have also noted the role of ¡°han¡±, an untranslatable Korean word which conveys a sense of resentment and victimization at the hands of others.  Aidan Foster-Carter memorably compared the ROK to Ireland:

 

Both are now huge success stories, but have yet to grow out of their victim complex...for a sophisticated and highly educated people, all too many [Koreans] seem ready at key moments to press the han button, put their minds on hold and give gut resentment and self-pity free rein.[24]

 

For centuries, observers have noted the importance of status and ¡°saving face¡± in the Confucian cultures of East Asia—and Korea is the most Confucian of them all.  Thus, a major motive of the demonstrators was their perception that U. S. behavior showed a lack of respect for Koreans.  The June 13th protestors appeared to believe that sufficiently loud, belligerent and extreme protests would elicit the respect they wanted.  But in American eyes, the U. S. already ¡°respected¡± Korea; the June 13th incident was just a traffic accident with no larger meaning; and the anti-American displays represented shameful ingratitude at best, atavistic racism at worst.  Consequently, the effect of the demonstrations on American attitudes was exactly the opposite of what was intended.  Furthermore, greater awareness of the protests in the minds of U. S. policymakers will be extremely detrimental to Seoul¡¯s national interest.

 

While Americans might resent being unfairly singled out as a source of Korean suffering (Japan, China and Russia are equally blameworthy), it is important to remember that Koreans, not Americans, will ultimately suffer the consequences of policy decisions made for xenophobic, irrational reasons.  If romantic naivete towards the DPRK and mindless hostility towards the U. S. leads to another Korean war, most of the victims will be Korean.

 

Many Korean actions fed the flames of misunderstanding.  Horrific photos of the two girls¡¯ bodies were posted on the Internet, predictably increasing public ire.  The Korean public appeared almost totally unaware of the multifaceted U. S. attempts to atone for the incident, or tended to automatically dismiss these efforts as insufficient and insincere.[25]  The incident also highlighted Korean ignorance of the U. S.  For example, one writer in the Korea Times complained in a ¡°Message to President G.W. Bush¡±: ¡°If two American schoolgirls were struck to death by a Korean drivers [sic] in the U.S., how would you feel?¡±[26]  The true answer to this question—that President Bush would never know about such an incident, because it would be handled by local authorities who would regard the matter as a routine traffic accident—would surely be beyond this writer¡¯s comprehension.  Sadly, however, such attitudes have become all too typical: South Koreans seem increasingly ready to believe only the worst possible interpretations of their longtime ally¡¯s behavior.

 

An false assumption of many protestors, unexamined both by them and by the media, is that USFK is an overwhelming and intrusive presence in the ROK.  In fact this assumption borders on the absurd given the numerical facts: about 37,000 U. S. soldiers are dispersed in several bases amongst more than 45 million South Koreans, a numerical ratio of Koreans to Americans of more than 1200 to 1.  That the presence is commonly perceived as more intrusive than it actually is is mostly due to a historical accident of real estate: although the absolute number of U. S. soldiers is small, many of them are currently based in Yongsan Garrison, which has a prominent location in the middle of Seoul.

 

Finally, most student demonstrations in the ROK have historically been at least influenced, if not orchestrated, by the DPRK.  Hwang Jeong-Yeop was characteristically frank about this:

 

Practically all the student demonstrations in South Korea can be said to have been orchestrated by agents of the North, without exception. North Korean ideology has nothing to do with Marxism or the reality of the Juche philosophy, but South Korean students are unaware of the processes of change in the North and are easily deceived by propaganda.[27]

 

This is not to deny that the ROK has some genuine grievances against the U. S.—for example, the June 13th incident raised legitimate issues about USFK procedures and specific aspects of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which details, among other things, disciplinary procedures for U. S. personnel who commit crimes in the ROK.  However, the extent to which these legitimate issues have been deliberately fanned into irrational anti-American hysteria by DPRK-influenced elements in South Korea has been seriously underexamined.  It is obvious that the anti-American demonstrations have hugely benefited the DPRK regime and, as such, the sources of such protests should be monitored and examined critically.  Just as it was never assumed during the Cold War that public opinion in the USSR was the result of a fair, rational assessment of the facts, it should not be assumed today that public opinion in the ROK is free from malevolent outside influences.

 

What the U. S. Can Do to Heal the Alliance

 

First, the Bush administration should immediately release evidence documenting as irrefutably as possible that North Korea initiated its uranium enrichment program during the Clinton administration.  Every possible measure should be taken to bring this information to the attention of the Korean public and to the world at large (which largely shares the erroneous ROK perception).  This single action would do more than any other to dispel the highly damaging perception in the ROK that President Bush is to blame for the North¡¯s nuclear activities.

 

Second, any successful diplomacy with East Asian societies must recognize the importance of ¡°face¡±.  Simple, symbolic actions—for example, President Bush inviting ROK President Roh Moo-Hyun ¡°to the ranch¡±—can be surprisingly effective.  The May 2003 summit between the two leaders went smoothly (to the surprise of some), and helped to mend relations.  Also, the historic rivalry between Korea and Japan can be used to send a message: if a U. S. leader stops in Korea before visiting Japan on an Asian tour, this will make a favorable impression in the ROK.  The U. S. can deal later with any ruffled Japanese feathers such measures might cause; at the moment, U. S./ROK relations should have higher priority.

 

Third, U. S. officials at all levels must understand the importance of managing perceptions.  If the U. S. is perceived to be ordering South Korea around, regardless of the actual facts, policy failure will ensue.  The U. S. government should not, as the Bush administration did, allow glaring policy gaps to open up between U. S. and ROK leaders.  Instead, the two governments should present a common front publicly on Korean issues; the inevitable differences should be resolved privately, inasmuch as that is possible.  A specific practice that contributes to this problem is the American political custom of taking specific foreign policy positions during presidential campaigns.  The Bush 2000 campaign staked out a hard-line position on North Korea during the campaign, and in doing so, unnecessarily promoted hostility towards the U. S. in South Korea—the dreadful results of which are now all too apparent.  U. S. politicians of all parties should avoid this problem in the future by avoiding taking specific policy positions on Korea that will limit the government¡¯s future options.

 

The ¡°Hand Over the Keys¡± Policy

 

Certainly, there was once a time when the ROK would, for lack of choice, accede to an American policy that it privately disagreed with.  But U. S./ROK relations since 2000 have shown quite clearly that this era has passed.  This should not be something to mourn: on the contrary, it is a democratic outcome, the partial result of successful U. S. policies of past decades, which allowed the ROK economy and ultimately, its democratic processes to flower.  What does the democratic reality in South Korea imply for U. S. policy?  A relevant quote about democracy is H. L. Mencken¡¯s observation:

 

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

 

At the end of the day, the ROK has the right to choose whatever policy towards the DPRK it wants—even if that policy is dangerously misguided.  Thus, as a friendly ally, the U. S. should support the ROK in whatever inter-Korean policy it chooses; if that policy fails, the responsibility will rest exactly where it should: with the ROK.  This approach might be called the ¡°hand over the keys¡± policy because it explicitly assigns decisionmaking responsibility to the ROK, with the U. S. having only a supporting role.

 

While this is admittedly an ¡°outside the box¡± option, it is hardly as radical as it first appears: in fact, it has already been used.  Former ROK President Kim Dae-Jung, in an August 2000 newspaper interview, claimed that President Clinton had explicitly given him control of Korean policy:

 

¡°When I explained [the Sunshine Policy] to Clinton, he told me, ¡®You are now in charge of the policy for the peninsula¡¯,¡± President Kim said, adding that Clinton declared his support for the engagement policy more than 10 times.[28]

 

This policy is pragmatic: in purely practical terms, it is impossible for the U. S. to sustain a hard-line policy towards the DPRK without ROK support.  Attempting to do so will only result in a humiliating fiasco, as the Bush administration discovered in late 2002 when it decided on a ¡°tailored containment¡± policy without getting Seoul¡¯s support first:

 

Within days, the vaunted program of [tailored containment] went down the memory hole. You hear not a word about it today.  Instead, we went into high appeasement mode.[29]

 

Finally, the policy is moral, because it gives Koreans themselves control over their own affairs: self-determination.

 

There are potential drawbacks, of course: the risk of war, if some future administration in Seoul asked USFK to leave, is the greatest.  Another disadvantage is that the ROK¡¯s current ¡°Sunshine policy¡± will inevitably fail to prevent the DPRK from deploying its nuclear weapons—indeed, it has probably already failed to do so.  Neither will it, by itself, deter Pyongyang from proliferating WMD technology.  But the U. S. has other means for preventing such proliferation, of which traditional deterrence is the most effective.  Absent a war, it is nearly inevitable that future US policy towards the DPRK will have the following feature: Washington will take the position that any detonation of a nuclear weapon on US soil is Pyongyang¡¯s responsibility, regardless of claims to the contrary, and the U. S. will respond by obliterating the DPRK.[30]  This blunt tactic is almost the only effective way left to prevent North Korean WMD proliferation.

 

Military Measures To Maintain the Alliance

 

In recent months, the U. S. has significantly changed its ROK troop deployments, partly to assuage public anger in the wake of June 13th.  Most importantly, at the May 2003 presidential summit, an agreement was concluded to relocate the troops now based in Yongsan Garrison to other areas, as requested by the ROK for years.  The U. S. also decided to withdraw American troops from bases immediately south of the DMZ to areas farther south.  These units served for fifty years as a ¡°tripwire¡± force which assured automatic American involvement in the event of a DPRK attack.  However, many officials had come to regard them as hostages, in effect, which merely constrained U. S. options in the face of DPRK provocation.  Ironically, the ROK officially opposed, or at least sought to delay, relocation of the tripwire force.  Other reforms included the transfer of certain military duties—e.g. minefield maintenance, nuclear/biological/chemical decontamination operations, and other functions—to ROK forces by 2006.  A final initiative sought to withdraw U. S. soldiers from the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom by 2004 or 2005.  The JSA is the surreal and frightening place, in the middle of the DMZ northwest of Seoul, where DPRK and U. N. forces have faced off, negotiated, and on a few occasions fought, since 1953.  But the elite troops there are the most forward-deployed GIs on the Korean peninsula, and, as such, are exceedingly vulnerable to North Korean attack.[31]

 

More drastic reforms are possible.  The U. S. has defended Saudi Arabia for many years without permanently basing large numbers of troops there, by such means as building bases and prepositioning equipment where it would be needed in the event of war.  This approach obviously has a proven track record (viz., the Gulf War).  Although it would be more difficult to apply in Korea—Korea is easier to overrun than the vast Arabian peninsula, and might prove more difficult to reinforce—with enough planning and appropriate construction, the ROK could be defended effectively without a permanent troop presence.  It is vitally important, of course, that such a policy be introduced gradually and not seen as a response to DPRK pressure.

 

Also, USFK training exercises currently take place in the Korean countryside; the June 13th incident took place during one such exercise.  Good alternatives to these physically and politically risky activities exist: why can¡¯t a special training area be constructed, either in an underdeveloped part of the ROK, or better yet, in the U. S.?  The Appalachian region of the eastern U. S. has terrain that is amazingly similar to Korea.  Why can¡¯t the two governments simply reserve some land in this region for training exercises?  Whenever necessary, Korean troops could be flown over for joint exercises.  Impoverished Appalachia would surely welcome the jobs such a facility would bring, and Korean contractors could even be hired to construct the buildings for improved realism.

 

What the ROK Can Do to Heal the Alliance

 

Just as the first step in solving a personal problem is to get past denial, the first step Koreans must take in repairing their relationship with the U. S. is simply to acknowledge the existence and seriousness of the problem.  The ramifications for the ROK of a breakdown in the alliance could not be more serious: this outcome would imperil the country¡¯s physical survival.  Koreans who doubt this possibility should review the events surrounding the collapse of the Republic of Vietnam in 1975, then observe the DPRK¡¯s current military deployments.  It is vital for South Koreans to understand that although their feelings about the U. S. may have changed, their geopolitical situation has not changed.  Although the ROK military is very capable, it still has little hope of withstanding a DPRK attack without U. S. assistance, especially if that attack uses WMD[32], or is backed by Chinese troops.

 

In the cold light of day, the ROK¡¯s alliance with the United States is its most critical strategic asset.  The 2002 ROK Ministry of National Defense policy report recognizes this explicitly when it states, correctly, that 690, 000 U. S. troops would be available to reinforce the peninsula in event of a DPRK attack.[33]  The value of this assistance can be seen most clearly by imagining what the ROK would have to do to replace the security provided by those troops, and their associated equipment, if the alliance broke down.  Besides the crippling cost of training and equipping several new Army divisions, Seoul would have to build several aircraft carrier battle groups from scratch; triple or quadruple the size of its air force; and develop an independent nuclear deterrent, including land or sea-based missile forces.  However, even if this financially backbreaking arms program came into being, it still could not replace the U. S. military—because U. S. forces use cutting-edge technology which is not available to other countries at any price.

 

The same report also shows how much the ROK government has come to take U. S. assistance for granted.  This is a mistake.  Decisions regarding the deployment of U. S. forces are, in the long run, subject to a veto by U. S. public opinion.  In my view, the alliance cannot indefinitely survive U. S. public awareness of rampant America-bashing in the ROK.  Maltreatment of U. S. soldiers by Korean mobs is especially damaging in this regard.  U. S. public opinion changes slowly, as one would expect for a nation of 300 million which habitually takes little interest in foreign affairs.  But once it does change, it is very hard to reverse and even harder for politicians to defy: just imagine how difficult it would have been for any U. S. leader to order intervention in Vietnam in 1975 to prevent South Vietnamese collapse.  Seen in this light, the anti-US demonstrations in the ROK can be seen for what they are: playing with matches on a grand scale.  If Korean behavior causes the U. S. to withdraw its troops (as many American commentators are now openly advocating[34]) under acrimonious circumstances, a DPRK attack is more than possible.  Would an embittered U. S. then reverse its stance (under probable threat of nuclear attack) and come to the ROK¡¯s rescue?  Maybe, but isn¡¯t it enormously reckless to take that risk?

 

Also, the economic costs of aggravating the U. S. could be enormous.  ROK exports to the U. S. market run to tens of billions of dollars annually, all of which is potentially at risk if U. S. consumers decide to boycott Korean goods (it is noteworthy that virtually all Korean exports to the U. S. market can be produced by other countries).  The loss of US direct investment in the ROK would also be highly damaging.  Most costly of all, however, would be the catastrophic loss in investor confidence that would inevitably follow the departure of U. S. troops.  Without USFK, the ROK might find itself in a position where the DPRK can cause a financial crisis in the ROK whenever it likes simply by threatening to invade.  The disastrous economic, to say nothing of the political, results of such a pattern can well be imagined.

 

In a dangerous, unpredictable international environment, rational policymaking is a prerequisite for national prosperity, if not survival.  When reason is applied, the best course of action becomes clear.  Which is a greater problem for the ROK: two million North Korean troops deployed on the DMZ ready to attack, or the miniscule number of ROK civilians harmed by USFK soldiers?  The answer should be obvious—if it is not, Koreans are listening to the voice of ¡°han¡±, not the voice of reason.

 

Reason would also dictate that foreign policy decisions in the ROK should be made based on the national interest of the ROK: not just to spite the U. S.  Anti-American sentiment has created a dangerous climate where Korean leaders appear to be rejecting policies simply because they happen to be favored by the U. S. government.  Such behavior is pointless and counterproductive: it needlessly limits Korean options at a time when it is desperately important to consider every option available.

 

Another, closely related principle in dire need of application in the ROK is a ¡°facts first¡± approach to dealing with crises.  Ignorance of relevant facts will obviously lead to bad decisions.  For example, most of the ROK public blames the Bush administration for the current nuclear crisis.  But the best information available indicates that North Korea started its uranium enrichment program in 1997.[35]  The significance of this fact is simple: George W. Bush was governor of Texas in 1997; thus, it is a physical impossibility that he could be to blame for DPRK actions at this time.[36]  Another pertinent example is the silly notion that U. S. ¡°unilateralism¡± caused the crisis.  In reality, Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow, Washington, and Beijing are all in multilateral agreement that the Korean peninsula should be denuclearized: the unilateral dissenter is Pyongyang, not Washington.[37]

 

No American would dispute the proposition that the ROK has the right to ask USFK to leave if it decides to do so.  South Korea is now a democratic country, and as such, it can destroy its relationship with the U. S. if it wants to.  But, in international politics as in life, just because one can do something doesn¡¯t mean one should.  Fifty years of breathtakingly rapid economic development have turned South Korea into a major industrial power: the envy of the developing world.  ROK politics is a model for democracy in Asia.  Is the U. S. troop issue so important that it merits gambling all of this away by risking a Second Korean War?

 

Specific ROK Measures

 

First, the histories of South Vietnam and the Philippines[38] should be recognized as an ominous warning of what may happen if U. S. troops depart South Korea.  These historical precedents are not recognized because of the Korea-centric education system and media in the ROK, which largely ignores the history of other Asian societies.  Korean leaders and media should call attention to these cases so that the ROK public is more aware of the downside risks of U. S. departure.

 

Second, Korean leaders and opinion makers should encourage the public to adopt a rational, facts-first approach to foreign policy.  Large segments of the Korean media are now doing the opposite.[39]  Instead of tiptoeing around dismal conditions in the North as a part of the ¡°Sunshine Policy¡±, ROK media should tell the unvarnished truth about the DPRK to ensure that the Korean electorate makes its decisions based on valid information, not wishful thinking.  The blame for North Korean behavior should be ascribed where it belongs: with the retrograde DPRK dictatorship and its cruel, sybaritic leader, Kim Jong-Il.  Recently, there have been signs that reason is starting to prevail, especially after Koreans learned that the historic 2000 summit between Kim Jong-Il and then-ROK president Kim Dae-Jung may have been the result of a $500 million kickback to the North.  Reportedly, the payment was arranged by Hyundai Asan chairman Chung Mong-Hun, who committed suicide in August 2003 when it became clear that he was the main target of a probe initiated by opposition parties investigating the bribery scandal.

 

Third, Korean leaders and the Korean public should understand that ultra-nationalistic tantrums do not win respect from other countries; in fact, they tend to reduce the esteem with which Korea is regarded in the eyes of others.

 

Personal gestures, especially by ROK leaders, are very important.  President Roh Moo-Hyun has already met with U. S. troops to make clear that he does not share the opinions of the most extreme demonstrators[40], and continued such efforts will have a beneficial effect.  Any publicity that is given to positive cooperation between the two allies, such as joint training exercises, sports exchanges, business cooperation, etc. will also help to maintain the alliance.

 

The Right Way and the Wrong Way To Modify U. S. Policy

 

Although Korea and the U. S. have much in common as successful commercial democracies, it is inevitable that their legitimate interests will occasionally diverge.  Consequently, there are times when Koreans would like to modify American policy.  This is, in fact, quite possible: but the anti-American demonstrations have shown clearly that most Koreans do not understand the best way to go about it.

 

The right way to alter U. S. policy is the same way American interest groups use: lobby the government, build relationships with key officials and academic experts, and exploit the press.  American politicians, officials, journalists, professors, and the public all have one thing in common: they will respond sympathetically to rational arguments that acknowledge U. S. friendship and benign intentions.  They will not respond to arguments that vilify the U. S. or its motives, demonize American leaders, betray ignorance of settled facts, or parrot DPRK propaganda.

 

For example, Koreans might argue that the maturing of Korean democracy naturally means Korean politicians are less willing to defer to the U. S.  Or they might call Americans¡¯ attention to the geography of the Korean peninsula, and the fact that an outbreak of war would devastate Seoul, which represents 40% of the ROK economy and almost a quarter of its population.  These arguments are reasonable and will meet with sympathetic ears.  Indeed, when former President Kim Dae-Jung met with President Bush, he clearly altered the Bush administration¡¯s approach to Korean affairs precisely by expressing the latter argument clearly.

 

What will not work is to make accusations that most Americans will not even understand, much less agree with, such as ¡°the U. S. just wants to control Korea¡±, or ¡°the U. S. is an imperialist power¡±.  Harassment of American soldiers and xenophobic displays will be equally ineffective.  It is well within the capability of Korean journalists and Korean leaders to discover the reality of U. S. policy and U. S. public opinion, and work effectively to modify it when necessary, rather than to simply wallow in a self-pitying victim complex while regurgitating falsehoods and half-baked theories.

 

Conclusion

 

It is too late to prevent the DPRK from getting nuclear weapons, but it is not too late to repair the U. S./ROK alliance.  Thus far, cooler heads have prevailed in Seoul: President Roh, a sophisticated and modern politician, has clearly stated several times that he has no intention of asking U. S. troops to leave, and has taken steps to repair relations with USFK.[41]

 

As long as US troops remain, war is still unlikely.  Virtually all historic statements of DPRK policy have demanded the withdrawal of US troops; ironically, the very ubiquity of this demand inadvertently strengthens the case for their continued presence.  Although the DPRK cloaks its demand in sanctimonious nationalism, the true motive is to remove the chief barrier preventing a DPRK attack on the South: the certainty of US involvement and, with it, inevitable defeat for the DPRK.  North Korea¡¯s paramount goal, exceeded in importance only by regime survival, is to reunify the Korean peninsula under the control of the ¡°Kim dynasty¡±.  The North¡¯s lengthy history of massive brutality and flagrant disregard for human rights and international law show that the immense casualties any war would cause will not deter it.  What will deter the DPRK is certain destruction and defeat, and this is a deterrent the United States alone can provide.

 

The likelihood of an attack if US troops did leave is debatable.  Deterrence is quite possible without a permanent U. S. troop presence, but more difficult, and would probably require giving nuclear weapons to Japan to be effective.[42]  The most likely window of opportunity for an attack is any time period where US troops have left Korea, but Japan has not prepared a nuclear deterrent force—only during this time would the DPRK¡¯s attack plan (as described by Hwang Jeong-Yeop) be possible.  The DPRK might also attempt a takeover by nuclear blackmail of the ROK without involving Japan.  This would require a capability to target U. S. cities with nuclear missiles that the DPRK almost certainly lacks; the North is working towards ICBMs but has never conducted a full-scale test of one.  In a war, the only way for the DPRK to avoid defeat once the U. S. got involved would be to recruit China, which now looks uncertain, especially if China perceives that the DPRK initiated the conflict.  Once the U. S. enters the fray, nuclear escalation would be pointless: the U. S. would respond by destroying the DPRK.  The U. S. and ROK would also prevail in a conventional conflict, although not without huge casualties and massive damage to Seoul.

 

The best way to avoid the nightmare of war remains the same as it has been for 50 years: to maintain a strong U. S./ROK alliance, with or without USFK.  The DPRK must not be allowed to think that a ¡°Saigon 1975¡± scenario is possible.  As long as it does not, war can be prevented.  Unfortunately, however, reunification, the shared dream of Koreans North and South (and of many Americans as well, as long as it occurred under ROK auspices), remains unlikely also.  What will probably develop in the coming years is a de facto ¡°Two Kingdoms¡± period:[43] the South will continue to prosper as it has for many years, while the North will recover somewhat, helped by gradual economic reform, from the disastrous 1990s.

 

As for the DPRK¡¯s nuclear program, it will inevitably continue and eventually lead to a North Korean ICBM force, unless the regime collapses beforehand (an unlikely eventuality).  The North¡¯s nuclear program presents two major problems for the U. S.: nuclear proliferation in the short term, and a direct threat to the U. S. mainland in the long term.  The proliferation problem can be dealt with by deterrence, as I have already argued.  The direct threat posed by ICBMs is more serious.  It is arguably harder to deter, because the DPRK may believe that if it attacks the ROK and threatens the U. S. with an attack on West Coast cities should it intervene, the U. S. will not risk its own population to save the ROK.  The best American options for dealing with a DPRK ICBM threat are missile defense (with all its technical uncertainties), and a first-strike policy (which would entail grave political costs if it was ever carried out).  The next best option is placing nuclear weapons in South Korea: while highly risky, this approach would at least allow the ROK to provide its own deterrence.

 

The U. S./ROK alliance, at its golden anniversary, is not unlike a successful marriage of the same duration.  Although the partners have been through countless ups and downs, and basically prospered together, they have also discovered that familiarity can lead to contempt.  But an outright breakdown of the alliance would be a catastrophe for all concerned, since the consequences could very well include a second Korean War.  The effects of that war would be almost unimaginable: civilian and combat deaths in the hundreds of thousands; economic losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars; colossal destruction of property; the potential use of nuclear weapons; possibly even the demise of the ROK.  It is also impossible for the U. S. to effectively address the urgent problem of North Korean WMD without ROK support.  To preserve the alliance, the U. S. and ROK should both modify their behavior.  The U. S. should be more careful to avoid actions which are perceived in the ROK as disrespectful, and explore creative options for avoiding future incidents involving the USFK.  Koreans should strive for a more rational, facts-based foreign policy, and accept the practical need to maintain American good will for the sake of their own survival.

 

 

1. Thomas Hubbard, ¡°Statement by Thomas C. Hubbard, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea,¡± 27 November 2002, <http://usembassy.state.gov/seoul/wwwh4591.html> (16 February 2003).

2. Caroline Gluck, ¡°Bush ¡®sorry¡¯ over S Korean deaths¡±, BBC Online, 27 November 2002, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/2517739.stm> (16 February 2003).

3. U. S. Embassy Korea, ¡°U.S. Military Courts-Martial Fact Sheet¡±, <http://usembassy.state.gov/seoul/wwwh43e8.html> (16 February 2003).

4. Hubbard, ¡°Statement¡±.

5 U. S. Embassy Korea, ¡°USFK Corrective Measures to Prevent Future Accidents¡±, <http://usembassy.state.gov/seoul/wwwh43e9.html> (16 February 2003).

6 U. S. Embassy Korea, ¡°U.S. Military Courts-Martial Fact Sheet¡±.

7 Peter S. Goodman and Joohee Cho, ¡°Anti-U.S. Sentiment Deepens in S. Korea¡±, The Washington Post, 9 January 2003, p. A01.

8 Barbara Demick, ¡°U.S. Embassy Warns Americans in South Korea After Attacks¡±, Los Angeles Times Online, 19 December 2002.

9 Franklin Fisher, ¡°Attack on American in South Korea,¡± Stars and Stripes Pacific Edition, 23 December 2002, <http://www.slite.afis.osd.mil/stripes/Dec2002/20021222.pdf> (16 February 2003).

10 Demick, ¡°US Embassy Warns Americans¡±.

11 Jae-Suk Yoo, ¡°South Korea: U.S. Didn't Debate Attack¡±, AP, 19 January 2003.

12 Peter S. Goodman, ¡°South Korea's President-Elect Visits U.S. Forces,¡± The Washington Post, 16 January 2003, p. A16.

13 Damien McElroy, ¡°Millions of North Koreans face starvation - but army will be fed,¡± telegraph.co.uk, 28 October 2001, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/10/28/wkor28.xml> (16 February 2003).

14 Vernon Loeb and Peter Slevin, ¡°Overcoming North Korea's 'Tyranny of Proximity',¡± The Washington Post, 20 January 2003, p. A16.

15 Rudolf Hess¡¯s famous 1941 flight to Scotland might be the closest.

16 Hwang Jeong-Yeop, ¡°Hwang Jang-Yeop: North Will Nuke Japan and S Korea¡±, Chosun Ilbo, n. d., <http://www.kimsoft.com/korea/whang1.htm> (16 February 2003).

17 Sang-Hun Choe, ¡°N. Korea Hears Anti-U.S. Diatribes Daily,¡± AP, 14 January 2003.

18 ¡°US Policy Stokes South Korea Anger¡±, BBC News Online, 31 December 2002, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/2618119.stm > (14 February 2003).

19 Goodman and Cho, ¡°Anti-U.S. Sentiment¡±.

20 For example, Vice President Cheney has had more experience with the Middle East.  National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice is a Russia expert.

21 Geographically absurd, because the political status of Korea is no more inherently critical to the US than the political status of Zimbabwe is critical to Korea (the geographic distance is about equal in both cases).  Historically absurd, because the UN forces, numerically dominated by US troops under Douglas Macarthur, would have successfully reunified Korea already in late 1950 if the Chinese hadn¡¯t intervened.  This indisputable historical fact is totally incompatible with the notion that the ¡°US wants to keep Korea divided¡±.

22 During Walker and Nino¡¯s court-martial, defense experts testified that faulty helmet headsets in the AVLM vehicle contributed to the accident by preventing Nino (the commander) from warning Walker (the driver) about the two girls.  (The driver¡¯s visibility is restricted in this vehicle.)  T. D. Flack, ¡°Prosecutors: Despite faulty gear, AVLM commander should have alerted driver about S. Korean girls,¡± Stars and Stripes Pacific Edition, 21 November 2002, <http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/caab/articles/avlmcommander.htm> (16 February 2003).

23 ¡°While Kim Jong-il Eats Pizza and Develops Nuclear Weapons, His Children Are Starving,¡± telegraph.co.uk, 12 January 2003, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/01/12/wkor112.xml> (16 February 2003).

24 Aidan Foster-Carter, ¡°Spleen Versus Sense in Seoul,¡± Far Eastern Economic Review, 19 December 2002, 25.

25 Andrew Jacobs, ¡°Crisis in Korea Stirs Debate in a Borough in New Jersey,¡± New York Times, 3 January 2003.

26 Choi Tae-Hwan, ¡°Message to President G.W. Bush,¡± Korea Times, 9 December 2002.

27 Hwang, ¡°Hwang Jang-Yop: North Will Nuke Japan¡±.

28 ¡°Pres. Kim Reaffirms Kim Jong-il's Approval of US Troops Here,¡± Korea Times, 17 August 2000.

29 Charles Krauthammer, ¡°Korea Follies,¡± Washington Post, 17 January 2003, p. A23.

30 Alternatives do exist to this ¡°Stone Age¡± approach.  For one, it is possible, technically, to identify the source of a nuclear weapon post-detonation by examining isotope ratios in the ensuing fallout.  Pyongyang might be induced to accept limited monitoring of its nuclear program for this purpose, if the alternative is automatic Armageddon in the event that a nuclear weapon is detonated on U. S. soil.  Even if such a proposal was rejected, making it would have political advantages for the United States.

31 The author has visited the JSA twice, and vividly remembers the Army guides there saying that they fully expect to be among the first soldiers killed if war breaks out.

32 As any attack almost certainly would—use of chemical weapons in particular is an acknowledged part of DPRK military doctrine.  Hwang, ¡°Hwang Jang-Yop: North Will Nuke Japan¡±, and Loeb and Slevin, ¡°Tyranny of Proximity¡±.

33 Kim Min-Seok and Min Seong-Jae, ¡°No More ¡®Main Enemy¡¯ in Defense Ministry Text¡±, Joong-Ang Daily, 28 December 2002.

34 A few examples of many: Adam Garfinkle, ¡°Checking Kim¡±, National Review, 27 January 2003; Carlos Alberto Montaner, ¡°It's time to leave Korea,¡± Miami Herald, 22 January 2003; Jim Lobe, ¡°Korea crisis fuels isolationism,¡± Asia Times Online, 16 January 2003, <http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/EA16Dg01.html> (16 February 2003).

35 A detailed review of the evidence for the timing of the DPRK uranium enrichment program is outside the scope of this paper.  I refer skeptical readers to the following articles: Daniel A. Pinkston, ¡°Collapse of the Agreed Framework?¡± and ¡°When Did WMD Deals Between Pyongyang and Islamabad Begin?¡±, both Research Stories of the Week of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) during October 2002, and available online at <http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/week/021028.htm> (16 February 2003).  Also, ¡°The Origins, Evolution and Current Politics of the North Korean Nuclear Program¡±, by Alexandre Y. Mansourov, published in The Nonproliferation Review, Spring/Summer 1995, available online at <http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/npr/vol02/23/mansou23.pdf>, (16 February 2003), gives essential background on the decades-long history of DPRK nuclear efforts.

36 It may be necessary to point out to Korean readers that state governors have no control over foreign policy in the U. S. political system.

37 Ralph Cossa, ¡°Avoiding World War III,¡± The Japan Times, 25 January 2003.

38 In the Philippine case, after the U. S. bases at Clark and Subic Bay were closed, China began to build permanent naval installations on islands which are claimed by the Philippines.  It is unlikely to be a coincidence that Chinese leaders only risked these actions after U. S. troops had departed.

39 Paul Eckert, ¡°S. Koreans Warned Anti-U. S. Tide Could Hurt Economy,¡± Reuters, 17 December 2002.

40 Goodman, ¡°South Korea's President-Elect Visits U.S. Forces¡±.

41 Sonni Efron, ¡°U.S. Views Bright Side of S. Korean Vote,¡± Los Angeles Times, 22 December 2002.

42 Probably the first commentator to suggest this option was Charles Krauthammer in ¡°The Japan Card,¡± The Washington Post, 3 January 2003, p. A19.

43 Named by analogy to the ¡°Three Kingdoms¡± period of Korean history (3rd-7th centuries A. D.).

 

 

 



[1] Thomas Hubbard, ¡°Statement by Thomas C. Hubbard, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea,¡± 27 November 2002, <http://usembassy.state.gov/seoul/wwwh4591.html> (16 February 2003).

[2] Caroline Gluck, ¡°Bush ¡®sorry¡¯ over S Korean deaths¡±, BBC Online, 27 November 2002, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/2517739.stm> (16 February 2003).

[3] U. S. Embassy Korea, ¡°U.S. Military Courts-Martial Fact Sheet¡±, <http://usembassy.state.gov/seoul/wwwh43e8.html> (16 February 2003).

[4] Hubbard, ¡°Statement¡±.

[5] U. S. Embassy Korea, ¡°USFK Corrective Measures to Prevent Future Accidents¡±, <http://usembassy.state.gov/seoul/wwwh43e9.html> (16 February 2003).

[6] U. S. Embassy Korea, ¡°U.S. Military Courts-Martial Fact Sheet¡±.

[7] Peter S. Goodman and Joohee Cho, ¡°Anti-U.S. Sentiment Deepens in S. Korea¡±, The Washington Post, 9 January 2003, p. A01.

[8] Barbara Demick, ¡°U.S. Embassy Warns Americans in South Korea After Attacks¡±, Los Angeles Times Online, 19 December 2002.

[9] Franklin Fisher, ¡°Attack on American in South Korea,¡± Stars and Stripes Pacific Edition, 23 December 2002, <http://www.slite.afis.osd.mil/stripes/Dec2002/20021222.pdf> (16 February 2003).

[10] Demick, ¡°US Embassy Warns Americans¡±.

[11] Jae-Suk Yoo, ¡°South Korea: U.S. Didn't Debate Attack¡±, AP, 19 January 2003.

[12] Peter S. Goodman, ¡°South Korea's President-Elect Visits U.S. Forces,¡± The Washington Post, 16 January 2003, p. A16.

[13] Damien McElroy, ¡°Millions of North Koreans face starvation - but army will be fed,¡± telegraph.co.uk, 28 October 2001, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/10/28/wkor28.xml> (16 February 2003).

[14] Vernon Loeb and Peter Slevin, ¡°Overcoming North Korea's 'Tyranny of Proximity',¡± The Washington Post, 20 January 2003, p. A16.

[15] Rudolf Hess¡¯s famous 1941 flight to Scotland might be the closest.

[16] Hwang Jeong-Yeop, ¡°Hwang Jang-Yeop: North Will Nuke Japan and S Korea¡±, Chosun Ilbo, n. d., <http://www.kimsoft.com/korea/whang1.htm> (16 February 2003).

[17] Sang-Hun Choe, ¡°N. Korea Hears Anti-U.S. Diatribes Daily,¡± AP, 14 January 2003.

[18] ¡°US Policy Stokes South Korea Anger¡±, BBC News Online, 31 December 2002, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/2618119.stm > (14 February 2003).

[19] Goodman and Cho, ¡°Anti-U.S. Sentiment¡±.

[20] For example, Vice President Cheney has had more experience with the Middle East.  National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice is a Russia expert.

[21] Geographically absurd, because the political status of Korea is no more inherently critical to the US than the political status of Zimbabwe is critical to Korea (the geographic distance is about equal in both cases).  Historically absurd, because the UN forces, numerically dominated by US troops under Douglas Macarthur, would have successfully reunified Korea already in late 1950 if the Chinese hadn¡¯t intervened.  This indisputable historical fact is totally incompatible with the notion that the ¡°US wants to keep Korea divided¡±.

[22] During Walker and Nino¡¯s court-martial, defense experts testified that faulty helmet headsets in the AVLM vehicle contributed to the accident by preventing Nino (the commander) from warning Walker (the driver) about the two girls.  (The driver¡¯s visibility is restricted in this vehicle.)  T. D. Flack, ¡°Prosecutors: Despite faulty gear, AVLM commander should have alerted driver about S. Korean girls,¡± Stars and Stripes Pacific Edition, 21 November 2002, <http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/caab/articles/avlmcommander.htm> (16 February 2003).

[23] ¡°While Kim Jong-il Eats Pizza and Develops Nuclear Weapons, His Children Are Starving,¡± telegraph.co.uk, 12 January 2003, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/01/12/wkor112.xml> (16 February 2003).

[24] Aidan Foster-Carter, ¡°Spleen Versus Sense in Seoul,¡± Far Eastern Economic Review, 19 December 2002, 25.

[25] Andrew Jacobs, ¡°Crisis in Korea Stirs Debate in a Borough in New Jersey,¡± New York Times, 3 January 2003.

[26] Choi Tae-Hwan, ¡°Message to President G.W. Bush,¡± Korea Times, 9 December 2002.

[27] Hwang, ¡°Hwang Jang-Yop: North Will Nuke Japan¡±.

[28] ¡°Pres. Kim Reaffirms Kim Jong-il's Approval of US Troops Here,¡± Korea Times, 17 August 2000.

[29] Charles Krauthammer, ¡°Korea Follies,¡± Washington Post, 17 January 2003, p. A23.

[30] Alternatives do exist to this ¡°Stone Age¡± approach.  For one, it is possible, technically, to identify the source of a nuclear weapon post-detonation by examining isotope ratios in the ensuing fallout.  Pyongyang might be induced to accept limited monitoring of its nuclear program for this purpose, if the alternative is automatic Armageddon in the event that a nuclear weapon is detonated on U. S. soil.  Even if such a proposal was rejected, making it would have political advantages for the United States.

[31] The author has visited the JSA twice, and vividly remembers the Army guides there saying that they fully expect to be among the first soldiers killed if war breaks out.

[32] As any attack almost certainly would—use of chemical weapons in particular is an acknowledged part of DPRK military doctrine.  Hwang, ¡°Hwang Jang-Yop: North Will Nuke Japan¡±, and Loeb and Slevin, ¡°Tyranny of Proximity¡±.

[33] Kim Min-Seok and Min Seong-Jae, ¡°No More ¡®Main Enemy¡¯ in Defense Ministry Text¡±, Joong-Ang Daily, 28 December 2002.

[34] A few examples of many: Adam Garfinkle, ¡°Checking Kim¡±, National Review, 27 January 2003; Carlos Alberto Montaner, ¡°It's time to leave Korea,¡± Miami Herald, 22 January 2003; Jim Lobe, ¡°Korea crisis fuels isolationism,¡± Asia Times Online, 16 January 2003, <http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/EA16Dg01.html> (16 February 2003).

[35] A detailed review of the evidence for the timing of the DPRK uranium enrichment program is outside the scope of this paper.  I refer skeptical readers to the following articles: Daniel A. Pinkston, ¡°Collapse of the Agreed Framework?¡± and ¡°When Did WMD Deals Between Pyongyang and Islamabad Begin?¡±, both Research Stories of the Week of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) during October 2002, and available online at <http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/week/021028.htm> (16 February 2003).  Also, ¡°The Origins, Evolution and Current Politics of the North Korean Nuclear Program¡±, by Alexandre Y. Mansourov, published in The Nonproliferation Review, Spring/Summer 1995, available online at <http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/npr/vol02/23/mansou23.pdf>, (16 February 2003), gives essential background on the decades-long history of DPRK nuclear efforts.

[36] It may be necessary to point out to Korean readers that state governors have no control over foreign policy in the U. S. political system.

[37] Ralph Cossa, ¡°Avoiding World War III,¡± The Japan Times, 25 January 2003.

[38] In the Philippine case, after the U. S. bases at Clark and Subic Bay were closed, China began to build permanent naval installations on islands which are claimed by the Philippines.  It is unlikely to be a coincidence that Chinese leaders only risked these actions after U. S. troops had departed.

[39] Paul Eckert, ¡°S. Koreans Warned Anti-U. S. Tide Could Hurt Economy,¡± Reuters, 17 December 2002.

[40] Goodman, ¡°South Korea's President-Elect Visits U.S. Forces¡±.

[41] Sonni Efron, ¡°U.S. Views Bright Side of S. Korean Vote,¡± Los Angeles Times, 22 December 2002.

[42] Probably the first commentator to suggest this option was Charles Krauthammer in ¡°The Japan Card,¡± The Washington Post, 3 January 2003, p. A19.

[43] Named by analogy to the ¡°Three Kingdoms¡± period of Korean history (3rd-7th centuries A. D.).