[EDITORIALS]Don’t ignore U.S. sentimentThe current state of U.S.-South Korean relations was referred to as being the victim of “historical amnesia” by a top U.S. politician, this time Senator Hillary Clinton, who is rumored to be the Democratic Party’s next presidential candidate.
The term was once used by Congressman Henry Hyde, a Republican representative who leads the House Committee on International Relations, when he described the controversy in South Korea over the statue of General MacArthur. Yet within a month, the term was used again by a prominent Democratic politician. The incident shows that both ruling and opposition lawmakers in the United States are feeling uncomfortable and worried about the current state of relations with South Korea.
Until now, some Seoul officials often dismissed American criticism of South Korea and uneasiness and concerns about the alliance by saying that such complaints are made only by Republicans and neo-conservatives. Ms. Clinton’s remarks, however, show that the concerns have spread from Republicans to Democrats. The time has come for Seoul to drop its carefree attitude.
Ms. Clinton said, “I think there is a lack of understanding and a sense of historical amnesia.” She expressed concern over the change in “their [South Koreans] understanding of the importance of our position there and what we have done over so many decades to provide them the freedom that they have enjoyed, to develop the economy that is now providing so many benefits to South Koreans.”
Many in the United States agree with her point of view. The worsening U.S. sentiment toward South Korea is connected to President Roh Moo-hyun and senior Seoul officials’ approaches toward the United States. Arguments by left-wing activists, such as the efforts to remove General MacArthur’s statute, have also played a role. Mr. Roh’s ambition for independent diplomacy cannot be achieved with rough tongues. If our raised voice causes displeasure and a feeling of betrayal in our counterpart, then we have to accept our losses.
And yet President Roh has been bragging that South Korea has surpassed its aims in foreign affairs, making us feel extremely embarrassed. The majority of South Koreans are aware of the importance of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and appreciate the United States’s contributions to Korea’s development. The Roh administration’s duty is to convey such sentiments accurately to the United States.