[Letter to the editor]Troops in Iraq bring us hidden benefits
Recently, a visit I made to the Zaytun Unit dispatched to Iraq caused me to think about the withdrawal issue. The Zaytun Unit is now being hailed by citizens of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, where the Kurds live, for its exemplary restoration and reconstruction services. The troop has constructed about 60 schools and has begun to build a new community during the two years it has been dispatched there. They offer courses such as baking, the operation of heavy trucks and the maintenance and repair of home appliances, generators and cars at the Zaytun Vocational Training Center. Besides the troops, the Zaytun Hospital treats more than 150 patients a day. These civil strategies are recognized as a model by allied powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom, whose troops are also stationed in Iraq.
The Korean government is diminishing the numbers of the Zaytun Unit by stages, from about 3,800 two and a half years ago. They are planning to reduce the forces to about 1,200 in April. They are devising the withdrawal plan because of rising opposition in domestic politics. However, the dispatch and withdrawal issues should be decided considering the nation’s strategic and long-term interests.
First of all, dispatching troops to Iraq has significance as part of our duties as a member of the international community. Korea, which received assurances from other nations at the time of the Korean War, has become about 11th-greatest economic power in the world. Conversely, it is time for Korea to help neighbor countries in need. As a consequence, there might be opportunities for Korean enterprises to participate in a reconstruction project in Iraq.
The dispatch of the troops will contribute to the Korean army’s warfare capabilities. This gives us educational opportunities for joint operations involving the army, navy and air force, as well as the war-time opportunity to use armaments and accumulate actual experience from joint operations involving alliances. Moreover, the Zaytun troops mark the first foreign dispatch accomplished independently by Korea. About 15,000 soldiers, who return in every six months, will be in the vanguard in experience in certain areas.
Whether a country or individual, it is possible to obtain practical gains or miss them depending on their behavior in certain cases. The South Korean government missed the period to decide the dispatch of Zaytun Unit by hanging on antagonists’ smiles and didn’t receive proper gratitude from allied nations when they avoided the danger zone excessively when they chose to dispatch troops. We had to watch Japan strengthen its allied diplomacy by responding right away. Since then, a warm relationship has sprung up between Japan and United States, while relations with Korea have cooled. We can’t repeat this failure during the withdrawal process. We have to think deliberately about our relationship with United States when withdrawing. South Korea’s government should not treat negligently the positive effects that the dispatch brings.
Moon Geun-chan, a professor of start-up business management at Korea Cyber University
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