That Sweet Korean Model

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She’s thirty-six
US military bases
in a country a third of the way around the
globe. She’s over half a century old but the warhawks and the chickenhawks
love her – she’s that sweet Korean Model. You know, the one
they use as a model for Iraq.

President Bush
(what a source!) has referred to the "Korean Model" for
Iraq. Also, in discussing plans to keep US troops in Iraq, John
McCain
stated: "We’ve been in South Korea… for 60 years."
and Defense Secretary Robert
Gates
: "So I think that the reason that Korea’s been mentioned
is – and it’s been mentioned in contrast to Vietnam, where
we just left lock, stock and barrel." and White House Press
Secretary Tony
Snow
last year mentioned it too:" … in South Korea, where
for many years there have been American forces stationed there as
a way of maintaining stability and assurance on the part of the
South Korean people against a North Korean neighbor that is a menace."

Maintaining
stability? Oh, yes, like against democratization movements. From
the CIA
Factbook
: In 1993, Kim Young-sam became South Korea’s first
civilian president following 32 years of military rule. To many
South Koreans, the long American presence in their country is a
reminder of tacit
U.S. support for a series of ruthless despots
. "South Korea
between ’61 and ’89 was ruled by some of the worst military dictators
created during the Cold War," [Chalmers] Johnson says. "Finally
the Koreans got rid of them and have quite a healthy democracy now.
But all the credit goes to the Koreans – there is a terrible
tendency for Americans to mislead themselves about the good things
they have done in East Asia." During that period, Korean history
was marked by the The Gwangju
Democratization Movement
, a popular uprising in the city of
Gwangju, South Korea from May 18 to May 27, 1980. During this period,
citizens rose up against Chun Doo-hwan’s military dictatorship and
took control of the city. During the later phase of the uprising,
citizens took on arms to defend themselves, but were crushed by
the South Korean army. Senior officials in the Carter
administration
approved South Korean plans to use military troops
against pro-democracy demonstrations ten days before former General
Chun Doo-hwan seized control of the country in a May 17, 1980, military
coup, according to newly released U.S. government documents.

So our guys
helped in domestic repression, but the South Koreans need help defending
against the menace of North Korea, right?

Not exactly.
South
Korea
currently ranks 12th in the world militarily, whereas
North
Korea
is 18th. South Korea has twice as many men available to
the military (24 million to 11 million) and roughly twice as many
under arms (657,000 to 382,000). Economically
the South ranks 13th in the world with a GDP of $982b (just above
Australia), the North ranks 156th with $2b (just above Greenland).
North
Korea
‘s gross national income was valued at $26.7 billion last
year, with its per capita gross national income at $1,152, according
to the Bank of Korea. By contrast, South
Korea
‘s $971 billion economy grew 5 percent last year, giving
it a per capita income at $20,045.

Nevertheless,
about
27,000 U.S. troops
are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of
the 1950–53 Korean War. The two Koreas (and the US) are still technically
in a state of war since the 1950–53 Korean War ended with an armistice,
not a peace treaty.

But while the
US is technically still at war with North Korea, it no longer considers
Korea to be a combat zone. In fact, the US Defense Secretary considers
the country to be safe.

News
report
: Seoul, South Korea – Defense Secretary Robert M.
Gates said Tuesday [June 3, 2008] that he supported extending the
tours of thousands of troops stationed here to three years and allowing
their spouses and children to live with them during their assignments.
His endorsement adds momentum to a policy shift favored by commanders
to improve the quality of life for most of the 28,500 troops assigned
to South Korea on unaccompanied 12-month tours because South Korea
was considered a combat zone, but that has changed. “I don’t
think anybody considers the Republic of Korea today a combat zone,”
Mr. Gates told reporters earlier this month.

Despite South
Korea’s emergence as one of the most modern, progressive and
democratic nations in the world over the past 55 years, the United
States still rotates its troops here as through it’s still
an active combat zone, Army
Gen. Walter Sharp
, who has recently taken command of U.S. Forces
Korea, pointed out to the Senate Armed Services Committee during
his confirmation hearing in April. At the time Defense
Secretary Gates
said that extending tours and allowing troops
to bring their families to Korea would send the message that South
Korea is safe, and would bring assignment policies in South Korea
in line with those in Japan and Europe.

So South Korea
is like Japan and Europe, not threatened and now just a nice safe
place for US troops to bring their families. Nobody knows this better
than the leaders of North and South Korea. The South and the North
are reconciling.

Relations
improved
following the 1997 election of Kim Dae-jung. His "Sunshine
Policy" of engagement with North Korea set the stage for the
historic June 2000 inter-Korean summit between President Kim and
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. President Kim was awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize in 2000 for the policy, but the prize was somewhat tarnished
by revelations of a $500 million dollar "payoff" to North
Korea that immediately preceded the summit. The United States, according
to the US State Department, believes that the question of peace
and security on the Korean Peninsula is, first and foremost, a matter
for the Korean people to decide.

And they’ve done it. The leaders of North and South Korea last year
signed a joint
declaration
calling for a permanent peace deal on the Korean
Peninsula. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and the North’s Kim
Jong-il issued the declaration after a three-day historic summit
in Pyongyang.

The Korean
people also want reunification. Christine
Ahn
testified to the US Congress on January 25, 2005, including
the following. The Korea Institute for National Unification, or
KINU, a national research policy institute, recently conducted a
public opinion poll of 1000 South Koreans citizens and 300 leaders
from political, media and civil organizations. It found that 84
percent of the public and 96 percent of opinion leaders believed
that unification was an urgent task for the nation, and 85 percent
of the general public and 95 percent of opinion leaders approved
of North-South economic cooperation. Tourism has also been booming
in North Korea. In 2005, over 275,000 South Korean tourists visited
Mt. Kumgang resort in North Korea, bringing the total to over 1.1
million. That year, over 10,000 Koreans, not counting tourists,
had social and cultural exchanges in the north, a doubling from
2002 to 2004, when an average of 5,000 Koreans met per year. Together,
they reconstructed Buddhist temples and Christian churches, and
held meetings to discuss intellectual property rights of literature
and a common dictionary. Last year, North Koreans watched a South
Korean opera, and this year, South Koreans will watch "Sa-yuk-shin,"
a North Korean drama on TV.

Ahn’s testimony
continued: Perhaps the most emotional aspect of this historic process
is the meeting of families, many who have not seen their relatives
in over 50 years. Last year, 660 separated family members were reunited
in person, and 800 family members were able to see and speak to
each other through webcast, a new technology that has helped the
elderly who can no longer travel far distances. Koreans, seeing
the significant gains in peace and reunification, are no longer
willing to accept America’s Cold War mentality. On January
18th, the Journalist Association of Korea, the largest journalist
group with 6,000 members, asked U.S. ambassador Alexander Vershbow
to "stop making anti-North Korean remarks that do more harm
than good," and to apologize for his remarks, which they viewed
as "an intrusion in domestic affairs." South Korean President
Roh Moo-hyun also recently made clear that he did not endorse U.S.
sanctions against North Korea. If the Bush administration continues
hostile regime change policies, Roh said, "there will be friction
and disagreements between Seoul and Washington."

And how do
the Korean people feel about the continuing US presence?

One group
of young Koreans
claims that since 1945, U.S. soldiers committed
over 100,000 crimes against South Korean civilians. Between 1993
and April 2000, these crimes averaged 820 incidents per year or
2 to 3 incidents per day. Yet, the South Korean government has only
been able to bring to trial 20 or 3.56% of the 562 crimes committed
in 1999 alone.

Obviously it
doesn’t serve US interests for Korea to re-unite. Permanent war
is better. But, despite what the White House says, if there is no
threat and the South can handle a threat that arises, and the people
and governments want to re-unite, then why does the US maintain
troops in Korea fifty years after the war? Could it be financial?
Could be, but the current expensive changes in US basing have caused
a stir.

South Korea’s
financial burden sharing for a multi-billion
dollar project to relocate U.S. military facilities
is expected
to reach some 9 trillion won ($8.8 billion), a figure far higher
than the originally estimated 5.6 trillion won. Last year, Seoul
and Washington agreed on a master plan for the estimated $11-billion
project under which South Korea was to pay about 5.6 trillion won.
Under a 2004 land-swap pact, the United States is required to return
170 square kilometers of land housing 42 military bases and firing
ranges across the country by 2011. In return, Seoul is required
to offer 12 square kilometers of land to help triple the size of
Camp Humphreys to some 15 square kilometers housing 500 buildings.
The expanded Camp Humphreys, located 70 kilometers south of Seoul,
will accommodate more than 44,000 U.S. servicemen, their families,
base workers and South Korean reinforcements, according to the master
plan.

The
United States has called on South Korea to pay more
to reach
the 50-50 level in tune with the country’s growing economy and increased
responsibility for national defense. "Defense burden sharing
is advantageous to both partners. For the United States, the Republic
of Korea’s willingness to equitably share appropriate defense costs
is a clear indicator that the United States Forces in Korea are
welcome and wanted," USFK (US Forces Korea) Commander Gen.
B. B. Bell said in a statement presented to the House Armed Service
Committee on March 12. Under the Land Partnership Plan (LPP) reached
in 2002, the United States promised to pay for moving the bases
of the 2nd Infantry Division, north of Seoul, to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi
Province, where a consolidated U.S. military base will be built.
On the other hand, Seoul agreed to bear the cost for relocating
the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul under the Yongsan Relocation Plan
(YRP) finalized in 2004. Under a master plan drawn up by the two
governments last year, Seoul agreed to spend about $5.2 billion
on the program to move U.S. bases to Camp Humphreys, which will
be tripled in size to accommodate more than 44,000 U.S. service
members, their families, base workers and KATUSAs (Koreans serving
with the US Army).

General Bell
told Congress on March 12 that South Korea had paid "about
$2 billion" in a relocation effort "that’s going
to cost them around $10 billion." His comments caused
an uproar in South Korea
, which had pledged to pay only about
$4.5 billion toward the move. Bell blamed his comments on a "misstatement
or mischaracterization" in a transcript of his speech, but
the news service that provided the transcript said it reported his
comments accurately.

And the landowners
subject to land confiscation for base expansion
weren’t happy
either. From a 2006 news report: Daechuri, South Korea – Here
in the marshy heartland of the Korean Peninsula, the rabble-rousing
rice farmers of this tiny village are engaged in their own little
war against the U.S. military. With American forces in the midst
of their largest regional realignment in decades, the farmlands
of Daechuri have been condemned to make room for the expansion of
a nearby U.S. base. While about half the residents have quietly
accepted a lucrative cash-for-land deal being offered by the South
Korean government, a core group of about 70 holdouts have rebuffed
all efforts to buy them out. Their refusals to make way for the
base – or give in to what many of the farmers are calling "American
bullying" – have won them instant hero status among some
South Korean labor unions and student groups. Over the past several
weeks, protesters have held the largest anti-American demonstrations
in South Korea in four years, turning Daechuri into a symbol of
their struggle to drive U.S. troops out of the country. "We
are sick of being treated like America’s servants!" said Cho
Sun Yeh, a fiery 90-year-old rice farmer. Her first home in the
area was bulldozed to make room for a U.S. base during the 1950–53
Korean War.

So much for
Tony Snow’s "assurance on the part of the South Korean people."

The US is currently
expanding its military forces and needs its overseas bases because
there is no room for these troops in the United States, and it’s
financially advantageous to dun our allies for half the cost of
maintaining these troops and their families. The US needs these
bases so badly, in fact, that it has put a terribly increased burden
on the troops in Iraq (stop-loss, extensions, recalls etc.) just
to keep these overseas bases in operation and the Empire in business.
Not only that, but when it comes to newly invaded and occupied countries
the US can use these anachronistic examples to justify more new
and permanent bases in more countries. The US is in a self-perpetuating
military empire mode with no end in sight, with the Korean Model
as a prime example. And the new bases in Korea will accommodate
fifty percent more troops than are currently stationed there! For
three-year tours, with their families! Think of it – new schools,
child development centers, gymnasiums, swimming pools – and
two towns up from me the kids go to school in temporary trailers,
just big boxes. Go figure. Edward Abbey: "As war and government
prove, insanity is the most contagious of diseases."

Incidentally,
the sweet Korean model being used for a policy in Iraq may not be
accepted by the Iraqis. Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia
Inquirer
, on the proposed Status of Forces Agreement: "A
surge of Iraqi nationalism . . . spurred questions about whether
the Iraqi parliament would deliver the required two-thirds vote
to endorse an accord."

Of course Miss
Korea isn’t the only model that’s struttin’ her stuff – besides
her there are enough other
models
to fill the runway: Germany, 75,603 US troops; Japan,
40,045 troops; Afghanistan, 17,900 troops; Italy, 13,354 troops;
UK, 11,801 troops; Qatar, 3,432; Bosnia-Hercegovina, 2,931; and
Iceland, 1,754 troops. Is that all? No. According to the US Postal
Service there are about 3,000
overseas military ZIP codes
.

So the warhawks
and chickenhawks should lay off the Korean Model. She’s still sweet,
but she’s no longer useful and she’s no longer wanted. Like Japan
and Germany, and a hundred other places, she’s high maintenance
and not worth the trouble. Bottom line – she sets a bad example,
if you know what I mean. Give her the hook.

June
24, 2008

Don
Bacon [send him mail]
is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley
Butler Society
several years ago because, as General Butler
said, “war is a racket.”

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