[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Double check the history

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[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Double check the history

Mark Dake’s suggestion (Letters, April 9) to do “some serious research into Korea’s history over the past 100 years” may have left Michael Blais (Letters, April 6) feeling unsettled. Mr. Dake, who hails from South Jeolla province, ought to know that the Gwangju massacre took place not in 1979 as he asserts in his letter but in 1980. On May 18, 1980, dozens of students were bayonetted. The people rallied behind the students. The soldiers retreated but they returned nine days later wielding M-16s, and the indiscriminate slaughter began. Former President Kim Dae-jung pardoned both Presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo in 1998. The perspicacious Roh Moo-hyun received 715,182 votes to his opponent’s 26,869 votes in Gwangju in the 2002 election.
Nor does Mr. Dake mention the range limits imposed on South Korean missiles by the United States. Let’s suppose South Korea launches a space satellite from a base of one of the major powers on the continent. It may conflict with the 200-mile nautical limit agreed upon with the United States.
Mr. Dake’s litany of abuse against the U.S. alliance starts with this “fact”: “When Japan colonized Korea in 1910, the United States stood by and did nothing.” In the waning days of the last Korean monarchy, Togo Heihachiro’s cruiser, Naniwa, steamed into Hawaiian waters, thus preventing the annexation of the Republic of Hawaii until such time as reparations were paid to the government of the Mikado. That mission accomplished, Admiral Heihachiro and his flagship went on to defeat the Czar’s Baltic Fleet in the Korea Strait. In 1914, another Japanese warship, the Hizen, sank the Kaiser’s warship, Aeolus, just beyond the 3-mile limit off Waikiki. Japan was England’s ally. The Liancourt Rocks, as they were then known on maps in the West, weren’t of great interest until the limits on coastal waters were extended to 200 nautical miles; this was decades after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Another more general historical problem is small countries on the periphery of world politics may not gain much besides obloquy and may garner scorn. Witness former Australian Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies’s failure (and chagrin) after offering to act as the “honest broker” during the 1956 Suez Crisis. South Korean military spending is $17 billion, while that of the U.S. is $450 billion. North Korea spends 25 percent of its gross domestic product on its military; Japan’s 1 percent expenditure yields $43 billion. So, if South Korea ― which is already said to be more than a match for North Korea ― reunites with the North, the country would still have to double its expenditures to match Japan.

by Richard Thompson
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