Friday, August 18, 2006

Anti-Americanism in Korea

Anti-American Film?
(Image from Wikipedia)

Some of you may recall that my friend Kim Myongsob and I co-presented a paper, "The Two Koreas and the Clash of Civilizations in East Asia," at the 50th Anniversary Conference of the Korean Association of International Studies in Seoul, May 12-13, 2006.

For those interested in reading a bit on Myongsob's views, see an article published by him in yesterday's Korea Herald: "Anti-Americanism: Two faces of one coin?" (August 17, 2006). The title strikes me as a bit obscure -- anti-Americanism on each side of the coin? Or "anti" on one side and "Americanism" on the other? The article, however, clears the point up:

[T]here has been a general tendency to see South Korean nationalism and anti-Americanism as two faces of one coin.

Interestingly, Myongsob's own scholarly work suggests the opposite:

Contrary to this widespread [two-faces-of-one-coin] hypothesis, however, a nationwide survey that the author has conducted with Dr. Choi Jun-young (from March 7 to March 19 in 2005) indicates that South Korean nationalism based on enhanced national self-esteem increases trust in the United States and may contribute to attenuating anti-Americanism in South Korea.

This point, plus a number of related ones, will also be noted in the published version of our KAIS paper, which will appear in an upcoming issue of the Korea Observer ... some time in October, I think.

For those of you concerned with the current state of the American-Korean alliance, take note that Myongsob's Korea Herald article is the second in a 14-part series dealing with Korea-U.S. relations, and this looks to be a very interesting set of reports by various scholars.

By the way, yesterday's Herald also contained a related article by Jasper S. Kim: "How superpowers might treat Korea" (August 17, 2006). Remarking on the popularity of the anti-American film The Host (Gwoemul), in which a monster (괴물) spawned in the Han River by U.S. military base pollution attacks Koreans, Kim notes the current "wave of anti-Americanism" rolling across Korea and engages in a bit of counterfactual thinking in hopes of countering this wave more successfully than British King Canute countered the waves of the English Channel. Kim suggests that we imagine an East Asia in which some nation other than the U.S. (e.g., Japan or China) had dominated the Korean peninsula in the latter half of the 20th century. His point is to argue that

... relative to other possible superpowers, the United States is a relatively benign (yet robust) superpower, and thus, should be given its due respect for not exercising its might and will upon other nations, including Korea, as other superpowers probably would have chosen to do.

Kim then drives this point toward his conclusion that "anti-Americanism [is] really [not] what would benefit Korea's national interests" because driving the American's out of Korea might be tantamount to inviting somebody else in.

And that 'somebody else' might be the real monster (괴물).

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At 9:49 AM, Blogger jj mollo said...

My take on anti-Americanism is that it correlates to the cultural pressures imposed by the global economy. We have anti-American Americans. In Korea's case, there is also the refusal among younger people to recognize the true nature of North Korea and the dangers of appeasement.

The continued presense of American troops close to Seoul must be annoying, a constant reminder of the danger and their own inadequacy at defending themselves. I have read that the land our troops occupy would be very valuable now for real estate purposes, which is probably another sensitive issue.

I think very few countries have more accomplishments to be proud of than South Korea, and the people should have high self-esteem in that regard. It is, however, a small country in a bad neighborhood and needs our support whether they want it or not.

I'm wondering how much our close relationship with Japan annoys Koreans.

At 12:07 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

My friend Myongsob argues that America's ties to Japan are problematic for Koreans because of Japan's actions in East Asia.

The closer that the U.S. draws to Japan, the more tense that American-Korean relations will become -- if the U.S. appears to be siding with Japan 'against' Korea, and this will often be a very subjective judgement call that the Koreans themselves will make).

I think that Myongsob is right on this point, and you are correct to identify it as a problem.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:18 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

Great discussion, y'all!

Jeffery, would you allow me to link you on my sidebar? I will in no way be offended if you would rather I did not.


At 3:28 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

D.Daddio Al-Ozarka, certainly, you can link. No need to even ask.

Incidently, due to Bloggeer/Blogspot difficulties, I've suspended revising my own sidebar. It keeps losing links, so I stopped adding them.

I intend to set up a homepage to supplement this blog, and I'll build up a links page there to replace this flawed one here.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:14 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ian, don't blame Myongsob for the example. It was my own, and I should have been more clear, perhaps, though the detail about Canute intentionally demonstrating his inability to stop the waves might have distracted from the point that I was making (although it might also have been used to make my point since stopping the anti-American wave might be just as difficult).

I didn't know that Canute's mother was Polish, however. That's an interesting detail. The Medieval world was a fascinating place.

Thanks for stopping by. I was just wondering what had become of you.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:37 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Ian. I'm always amazed at the extent of your knowledge.

Jeffery Hodges

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