Extend troop deploymentThe possibility of an extension bill in the National Assembly for the deployment of Korean troops in Iraq is something to watch for.
Lawmakers from the United New Democratic Party and Democratic Labor Party oppose prolonging the troops’ stay, but if the bill is not passed, a situation could arise in which the current deployment could become “illegal.”
Japan and Australia, which both have close alliances with the United States, have already withdrawn their forces. Public opinion within the U.S. has also turned against the George W. Bush administration that initiated the war there. The issue was the main reason why the Bush administration lost heavily in off-year elections. As no weapons of mass destruction were discovered in Iraq, the main pretext for the invasion has been completely undermined.
Three years have passed since the initial deployment of Korean troops, and the logic behind maintaining a continued presence is losing weight.
Nevertheless, considering the national interests at stake, the extension should pass the National Assembly.
Another consideration is the potential economic benefit. For a country like ours that depends on exports, business orders are a lifeline. The Kurdish government in charge of managing the Iraqi town of Irbil has witnessed the reconstruction work carried out by the Zaytun Unit, and it’s adopting a friendly posture toward Seoul.
We should remember that the governor there told reporters in March that an extension of the Korean soldiers’ tour in Iraq would help Korean companies get business contracts.
In addition, the development of oil fields in this region is expected to start next year. Construction contracts increased from $17 million to $350 million last year.
Needless to say, if there is heavy opposition from local citizens, withdrawing the troops should be considered. But in the current circumstances, to argue blindly for withdrawal is just plain stubborn and unrealistic. It would be foolish to throw away enormous economic benefits, having deployed troops in the region for so long.
The same is true regarding our alliance with Washington. In order to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, cooperation with the United States is essential. Whether or not the U.S. deserves “respect” is irrelevant. This is reality.
The solution is for the National Assembly to pass the extension bill while the government decides on its scope.