[Letters] U.S. military in Korea

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[Letters] U.S. military in Korea

At the G-20 talks that took place in Toronto, President Obama said that the U.S. would retain control of South Korea’s military in the event of conflict with the North. This extended American control from its previous end date in 2012 to at least 2015. To acknowledge full sovereignty, the South Korean government would do well to gain full control of military operations in their own territory.

It’s a challenge to visit American military bases in South Korea and leave with an impression of the American presence as much more than a waste of resources. The U.S. has 28,500 soldiers stationed in South Korea. Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, they only been involved in minor skirmishes.

Overseas American bases operate with the guarantee of having to sacrifice no comfort of home while abroad. Military personnel are promised and provided with all the facilities and services one would find in the U.S., from food in the local commissary to American-style appliances like clothes dryers. It’s an odd strategy to mandate forces that are supposed to protect a population living at such practical distance from them. U.S. military personnel are not obligated to learn any of the Korean language. Even the British Empire had mandatory training in the local language for colonial officers.

It’s tempting to wonder what the excuse will be when 2015 finally rolls around; what reason the American administration will give to justify their bloated presence on the peninsula.

South Korea is a developed country. American command control is an anachronism from a different point in history. South Korea once benefitted from American guidance. That is no longer necessarily the case.

Americans at home are being asked to tighten their belts and accept times of greater austerity. The country’s military expenditures overseas could be a good place to find savings to improve their fiscal situation.

The stated reason for the extension of American control is to deter North Korean aggression. Vilification of the U.S. and depiction of the South as a de facto colony of the Americans are linchpins of North Korea’s oppressive ideology. Substantial dialogue between the Koreas would be plenty more likely without U.S. involvement. To actually weaken Kim’s rule and improve the region’s general security, the Americans might be wise to pack up their luxury amenities and head home.

Steven Borowiec, a writer in Seoul

Lessons from BP oil spill

All countries should learn from the disastrous BP oil spill. We are already dealing with major environmental problems because of our dependence on oil. The Bush administration put America’s citizens and environment second to the needs of business. Korea, nor any government, should make the same mistake. Humankind must learn to live in harmony with the environment, or else we will continue to erode the earth’s ability to sustain life. What America and the other nations of the world haven’t done is strike a balance between economic development and environmental stability.

Here in Korea, our challenges are different. We are a nation with few natural resources and no oil reserves. Thus, we are dependent on oil producing nations. What we should do, in the case of oil, is to only purchase oil from companies that practice responsible oil procurement. At the same time, we should reassess how we manage what resources we have. Ideally, Korea should find ways to meet our energy needs as safely as possible while remaining effective stewards of the environment.

Jenny Dohee Youn, student at Korea International School
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