Peacekeeping: February 2, 2004

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South Korea is sending 3,000 peacekeepers to Iraq in April and is being thorough about their preparations. A call for volunteers who could speak Arabic drew 25 officers and 21 enlisted troops willing to serve as interpreters. All have degrees in Arab language and most have spent some time in Arab countries. Seven professors of Arabic (and one of Farsi, Iran's language) have been brought in to improve the interpreters language skills. Not having to depend so much on Iraqi interpreters will reduce the security risks. Anti-coalition Iraqis have been bribing Iraqi interpreters to provide them with information. The 3,000 man South Korean force will join 440 South Korean troops (engineers and medical personnel) already in Iraq. The South Korean troops are going to Iraq at the request of the United States, and this caused a lot of popular opposition in South Korea. The younger generation of South Koreans, who remember nothing of the 1950-53 Korean War, are now the majority of the population. It has become fashionable to blame the United States as the cause of the continued division of Korea into north and south. Still, many South Korean career soldiers were eager to serve in Iraq, as it's as close as they are likely to get to a real war, unless North Korea finally attacks. There's also a sense of competition with the U.S. Army, which has had troops stationed in South Korea since 1945. The quality of equipment and training in the South Korea has rapidly increased since the end of the Cold War. Many South Korean military professionals want to show that, in a combat situation, they can do whatever the Americans can.

 


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