November 14, 2005

Korea Peace Day Highlights

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Cornell celebrated Korea Peace Day Friday. The day marks the need for the United States to gain “new voices and faces” to educate government policymakers about anti-Americanism, said Prof. Katharine Moon, political science, Wellesley College, in a speech in Uris Hall.

“What is interesting about this anti-Americanism is that it has riled many American sensitivities,” said Moon in her speech, “Protesting America, Pursuing Democracy: ‘Anti-Americanism.'”

Examples of anti-American behavior include the 2002 and 2003 anti-U.S. protests in South Korea, according to Moon. The protests, spread over the winter of 2002 and 2003, took place when a court ruled that two American soldiers accused of negligent homicide in the deaths of two teenage Korean girls were not guilty.

Moon, author of Sex Among Allies: U.S.-Korea Military Prostitution, which examined the role of Korean women working as prostitutes for the U.S. servicemen in South Korea, added that the protests were not the main catalyst for anti-American sentiments. Those feelings had been building up for half a century, since the end of the Korean War.

According to Moon, the 2002-2003 protests were “an accumulation of grievances” caused by cultural confusions and unintentional slights. She attributed the apparently-sudden rise in anti-Americanism in South Korea to a change in the structure of the nation’s government.

“You cannot expect an evolving democracy to not question a U.S. military presence,” Moon said.

A national shift in South Korea has begun to bring local issues to the forefront of the national news, allowing stories of apparent clashes with the U.S. military forces in South Korea to get blown into front-page national headlines.

“Seoul cannot speak on behalf of all of Korea,” Moon said.

She also said that a growing number of civil organizations devoted solely to exposing potential conflicts with the U.S. military forces in South Korea as making anti-American sentiment seem like a view shared by all of South Korea.

Moon, who has worked as a consultant for the U.S. Department of State, also said that the misinterpretation of anti-American sentiment in South Korea was partly due to an American inability to understand the changing nature of South Korea’s democracy. This also brought into question the nature of the current alliance existing between South Korea and the United States.

The present alliance is one built on the idea of “shared blood” stemming from the Korean War, she said. She emphasized the need to make the alliance “more political” because “many Americans do not understand Korea’s democracy.” The U.S. should take note as they embark on a similar “democratization” in Iraq, Moon argued.

Moon’s lecture was sponsored by the Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea. Prof. Jae-Jung Suh, government, a member of the organization, described Korea Peace Day as “not just about Korea but about the U.S.” The Alliance sponsors such events in an effort to promote “peaceful reconciliation of U.S. and North Korean relations.”

Archived article by Christine Ryu
Sun Contributor