Korea: December 23, 2002

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Roh Moo-hyun won the presidential election on the 19th and promised peace and prosperity. Roh won the election against an older, more conservative opponent that spotlighted the generation gap in Korean politics. Most South Korean voters were born after the Korean War (1950-53) and have known only peace and prosperity. But older Koreans remember the brutality of North Korean communists in the few months that North Korea controlled most of South Korea in the Summer of 1950. Younger Koreans are more concerned with what happened in Germany, when the communist governments collapsed in 1989 and East Germany merged with West Germany. This cost the West German taxpayers over a trillion dollars (so far) and South Koreans see a worse situation with North Korea. While East Germany was the most prosperous of the Soviet Union's East European satellite nations, North Korea is a huge mess. Over a million North Korean's have starved do death in the last decade and the economy up there  has collapsed. While many South Korean's won't admit it, they don't really want reunification just yet, for they fear the economic and political consequences. So the majority of (mostly younger) South Koreans prefer to prop up the North Korean dictatorship in the vain hope that things will sort themselves out up there without South Koreans paying hundreds of billions of dollars to clean up the mess. 

Another problem is the American military force in South Korea. American troops have been there since 1945, and since the 1960s, a growing number of South Koreans have wanted them to go home. But the government, and most voters, realize that the American troops guarantee US aid in case North Korea tries to invade. But South Koreans watch North Korea fall apart and realize that the American military insurance policy is probably not necessary any more. There is also a disagreement between Americans and South Koreans over North Korea's nuclear weapons and missiles. Americans fear these weapons will eventually be used against the US. But South Koreans tend to feel that these weapons are not all that scary and not an issue. 

President elect Roh campaigned on an anti-American theme, but changed his tune right after he was elected. Apparently the South Korean leadership still wants a little insurance. 

 

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