[EDITORIALS]The ‘pro-American’ labelIt has been embarrassing to hear the recent remarks by top government officials on the subject of foreign affairs. Not only have they been unrefined in the extreme, but one becomes skeptical of whether these officials have even a basic understanding of diplomacy. Things have come to the point where the foreign minister has actually had to come out and say, “There is no pro-American faction in the Foreign Ministry.”
The present tempest stems from President Roh Moo-hyun’s recent remarks in Turkey, where he said that there are some Koreans who are even more pro-American than Americans. As this statement stirred up controversy, the senior presidential secretary for public affairs criticized the press for causing instability in the U.S.-Korea alliance. “Academics and journalists fluent in English speak their individual opinions as if they represented all of Korea,” she said. Intellectuals and journalists concerned about the cracks in the alliance now risk being denounced as “more pro-American than Americans.”
It is possible, of course, that some in our society are more pro-American than Americans, and it is possible that some Koreans who are fluent in English may speak nonsense when they are overseas. But it shouldn’t be hard to grasp that if they are doing so, it is because they, too, are concerned about our country. This should not be a serious matter, as long as the president and his aides are careful with their language. Why are they making matters worse?
This is exactly why the government is criticized by academia, the press and even some in officialdom for dividing the people between pro- and anti- Americans. This is why the Foreign Ministry has had to proclaim two days in a row that it does not have a pro-American faction. Those Foreign Ministry officials who are well connected with the United States and Japan will inevitably feel intimidated.
As the senior presidential secretary for public affairs has said, minor disagreements may arise in negotiations between allies. We must never follow the United States unconditionally. If the press has misunderstandings about U.S.-Korea relations, the government must make the effort to correct them. The government seems to be taking the lead in damaging the alliance by making divisive statements without bothering to try to persuade the media. It is time to end the fruitless pro-American/anti-American debate.