[FOUNTAIN]Hands off, Uncle Sam

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[FOUNTAIN]Hands off, Uncle Sam

Several winds are blowing across Korea. There is the political wind of Roh Moo-hyun, whose bid for the presidency is stirring political circles. Other winds are bringing yellow sand from China to Korea. And winds of war are blowing, as more observers fear that growing tensions between the United States and North Korea will bring a crisis as soon as August.

Of course there are also warm breezes blowing, hinting of a resumed dialogue between the two Koreas and between North Korea and the United States. But the warm breezes seem too weak to blow away concern about a crisis. Cyclones can form at any time.

James A. Kelly, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, made some remarks that seemed to have been prompted by concern about the Roh Moo-hyun wind. In the wake of the speech, some people are worried that the United States intends to use some behind-the-scenes influence in Korea's presidential election this December.

Mr. Kelly said in that April 4 speech in Washington, "As a rule, democracy develops unpredictably, and we need to remind ourselves that Korea's next leadership may seek to redefine the nation's relationship with the United States in ways that may challenge our traditional role in Korea. We will be watching the election campaign closely and, whatever the outcome, we look forward to working closely with the next Korean administration."

He also said, "I would argue that the U.S. stabilizing presence in South Korea allowed South Korea to write its own success story. America's commitment to Korea's independence and territorial integrity meant stationing U.S. troops in South Korea to help defend an ally committed to democracy, peace, and prosperity."

How much influence the United States has on the Korean Peninsula can be recognized by remembering how strongly the "axis of evil" remark by U.S. President George W. Bush shook the Korean political sector. So Mr. Kelly's remarks could well be misinterpreted as an attempt by the United States to meddle in Korea's December election.

It is true that South Korea was helped in its political and economic development by U.S. forces in Korea. We don't intend to underestimate the importance of those troops. But, as Mr. Kelly admitted, Korea's development did not depend only on U.S. troops. There are many other countries in which people are living miserable lives despite help from the United States. It is Koreans who are responsible for the nation's future. The United States should just watch.

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Kim Seok-hwan

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