[IN THIS CORNER....]Should Korea meet U.S. troop request?We should react to the situation we find ourselves in with strategic and realistic judgment. At present, based on a total perspective of our national security and economy, there is nothing more important for us than our alliance with the United States.
While the majority of the people still agree that U.S. troops in Korea play an indispensable role in maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula, we cannot deny that Korea-U.S. relations are not what they used to be. The United States lost 35,000 soldiers in the Korean War and even now spends the equivalent of one-fourth of our national defense budget to keep 37,000 men and women in Korea as a big pillar for our national security. The U.S. support for our security in the past, present and future is what gives us our economic strength today.
Considering all this, we must send our troops to help the United States. First, this would assure us of help from the United States to strengthen our position in finding a solution to the North Korean nuclear program and provide us with the basis to lead the situation in the direction we see fit.
Second, by sending troops, when it is expected that there will soon be discussions on redefining the Korea-U.S. alliance, we would be in a more advantageous position in discussions about the future of the alliance and the decisions to be made on the size and realignment of U.S. troops here.
Third, from the perspective of international politics, we would be building a foundation for participating in the post-war restoration activities and the new energy regime in a U.S.-led international order.
Finally, we should not forget the direct and indirect effects an anti-American image would have on our economy, such as the lowering of our sovereign rating and hurting our businesses as they try to advance into foreign markets.
by Hur Seong-pil
The writer is a researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.
We should definitely not send troops to the war in Iraq. There is no justification for this war. Iraq had accepted the UN inspections for weapons before the war. To have declared a war, an act that inevitably includes the killing of many people, in this situation under the excuse of preventing a potential threat is immoral. Participating in an immoral war does not befit the image of Korea as a peace- and democracy-loving country. This war is also in opposition to international law because it was launched without a UN resolution approving it.
We are in the midst of solving the problem of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. It is imperative that we solve this problem peacefully. If we send our troops to an unjust war, we have no grounds to oppose a war concerning the North Korean nuclear program and no grounds to appeal for the support of international society.
Even without emphasizing what is stated in the constitution of our country, we should definitely not participate in this immoral and unjust war if we want to realize our vision of a Northeast Asian community based on the peaceful state of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. Of course, our relationship with the United States is important and this alliance holds significant influence on the future of the Korean Peninsula. No doubt the Roh Moo-hyun administration has had a hard time deciding its position. Until now, Korea-U.S. relations were such that the United States always decided what to do and Korea followed its decision unconditionally.
The Roh Moo-hyun government has called for a more equal Korea-U.S. alliance. Even if only for the need of the two countries to transform their relationship into one in which the playing field is more level, we should have firmly refused the United States’ call to send our troops to the war in Iraq.
by Park Sang-nam
The writer is a professor of regional studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.