[Viewpoint]It’s not the Americans’ faultAfter the end of the first round of free trade agreement negotiations between Korea and the European Union in May, Philippe Thiebaud, the French ambassador to Korea, complained jokingly to the Korean journalists who covered the trade talks that he was disappointed because there were only six protesters rallying outside.
He also made some cynical comments about the excessive concern Koreans have about the United States. He pointed out the indifference Korean people have shown toward the Korea-EU free trade agreement compared to the violent reactions against the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. Ambassador Thiebaud is a diplomat who is well informed about Korea. Therefore, his words seemed like bitter comments about the contradictory behavior of the “professional anti-Americanists” in our society.
It’s gone on for so long now that we have gotten used to a group of people repeatedly wearing headbands, as if in a conditioned reflex, to oppose the United States.
The market share of American beef in the Korean market before the outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States was 44 percent.
The controversy over mad cow disease has recently been cleared up, and the first shipment of American beef was sold to consumers at discount stores.
Protesters threw cattle dung in the stores to protest against the U.S. beef. But the same protesters did not say a word against imported pork from Belgium or Spain, or beef from Australia.
A Korean cargo ship, the Golden Rose, collided with a Chinese ship, Jingseong-ho, and the lives of 16 crew members on board the ship were lost. However, I did not hear of any protest rallies held at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul.
If it had been an American ship, instead of a Chinese one that caused the death of the Korean crew, the professional anti-Americanists would have risen up shouting anti-U.S. slogans like a swarm of bees.
Among the professional anti-Americanists, many still try to squeeze the present situation into the old way of thinking they had in the 1980s, when they considered “American imperialism” to be their archenemy.
They may take pride in themselves for their consistency, but a third party might see it as nothing but a black comedy.
They don’t see the contradictions in the reactions by the Korean people to the Belgian pork and the American beef, and in the same way to the Chinese ship Jinseong-ho that caused the death of Korean crew and the American military vehicle that killed two schoolgirls.
Consider, too, the comments made by the parents of Deoksu Primary School students, who were robbed of their playground by the Korea Democracy Foundation: “The renowned people who participated in the democratization movement protested against the U.S. plan to build its new embassy at a site near Deoksu Primary School in 2005 on the grounds that the building site was part of the Deoksu Palace premises. Now, the same people are saying they will build a memorial at the same site. How can they make such contradictory remarks?”
Thus, it is not strange at all that the people who put “anti-Americanism” at the center of their world have started to intervene in the standoff over Korean hostages in Afghanistan.
One might praise them for their patience, for having waited a whole two weeks before starting to exploit the issue.
The Rodong Shinmun, the propaganda machine of the North Korean Workers’ Party, made its first comment 10 days after the incident.
It said, “South Korea’s government is making a fuss, saying it will negotiate with Taliban. As long as the South Korean authorities follow the wicked ‘war on terror’ of the United States, taking Koreans as hostages will continue to take place any time in the future...”
What vile words!
In South Korea, a university professor started to fan the issue by saying, “The reason the exchange of Korean hostages with Taliban prisoners has not been accepted by Afghanistan is because the United States has made it a rule not to deal with terrorism-sponsoring countries.” Then the anti-American civic groups who rallied against the move of the American base to Pyeongtaek, the deployment of Korean troops to Iraq, the government’s plan to build a naval base on Jeju Island and the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, rose up and started to blame the United States. They act as if they belatedly realized the United States actually has influence in the hostage negotiations. For them, it is the United States that drove North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, which is potentially more harmful to South Korea than the North Korean nuclear weapons itself. Furthermore, they imply, the United States that sticks to anti-terror principles is more hostile than Taliban terrorists.
The United States is by no means an impeccable country. But in this case, it has done nothing wrong.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun