[FOUNTAIN]Still friends after all these yearsSince the election of Roh Moo-hyun as president of South Korea, the foreign media have been expressing interest in the future of relations between South Korea and the United States.
The Wall Street Journal said "South Korea held an election yesterday and North Korea won." Most U.S. media said Mr. Roh, a moderate left-winger, could increase tension with the United States and, if things go wrong, his victory could seriously threaten the alliance between South Korea and the United States. But deciding whether one country is friendly or hostile to another is not easy.
For example, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder of Germany, and President Jacques Chirac of France have somewhat rocky relations with U.S. President George W. Bush. Still, we cannot say that those countries are hostile to the United States, because the two countries share values of capitalism, democracy and human rights with the United States and there are no deep cultural differences.
Based on these reasons we cannot say countries ruled by pro-American dictators are amicable to the United States. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington provide an example. The terrorists came from two countries, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where the United States had the strongest relations among Arab countries. U.S. officials in charge of foreign policy were shocked by these unexpected acts.
Accordingly, in judging whether a country is friendly to the United States, taking a look at its culture and public values will tell much about its position, more than judging by the leader's view.
South Korea's younger generations, seeing only the surface, are demanding a change in relations between Seoul and Washington. South Korea is a country that bloomed as a capitalistic and democratic nation after being liberated from Japanese colonial rule after World War II. Among Asian countries, the nation whose values are closest to the United States is South Korea.
So, if the United States regards only the South Korea of the past as being amicable to its national interests, remembering the pro-U.S. policies of Korean military dictators who had no legitimacy, it would be a great misunderstanding on the part of Washington. If the United States denounces South Korea for being hostile only because Korea is not as manageable as before, we cannot help thinking that America does not respect South Korea.
The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.
by Kim Seok-hwan