[Viewpoint] Many faces of anti-Americanism

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[Viewpoint] Many faces of anti-Americanism

Anti-Americanism, just like pro-Americanism, is a worldwide trend. Just as every government has policies to deal with globalization, environmentalism, immigration and an aging population, governments also need to prepare for anti-Americanism.

Anti-Americanism is an even more serious and pressing issue for the United States, which is the party most directly concerned. And extreme anti-Americanism in the form of terrorism certainly threatens its security.

But anti-American terrorism also exerts an adverse impact on the global economy - which is led by America - obstructing the operation of the multilateral global economy between the U.S. and major economic powers.

The danger in all this for the U.S. is that, in the long term, anti-Americanism can be a foundation for an anti-American alliance, which may challenge the U.S. hegemonic status.

U.S. President Barack Obama has worked hard to extinguish the flame of anti-Americanism that spread around the world during the previous administration. When he visited Europe in April 2009, Obama asked Europeans to abandon anti-Americanism, saying the U.S. was changing.

Two months later, he attempted reconciliation between the U.S. and the Islamic world in his Cairo speech. However, Obama’s efforts have only resulted in half successes.

The Pew Research Center, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., regularly conducts an international opinion poll called the Global Attitudes Project. According to a Pew announcement on June 17, the favorability rating of the U.S. improved to between 60 and 70 percent in Western Europe. But Islamic countries showed only a 10 to 20 percent favorability rating toward the U.S.

Conservatives in the U.S. are not very happy with Obama’s diplomatic focus on improving U.S. favorability. Mitt Romney, who ran for president but failed to win the Republican nomination in 2008, claimed in his latest book that Obama was actually spreading anti-Americanism. As Obama makes apologies for America’s wrongdoings around the world, he is giving justification for anti-Americanism, Romney argued.

For our part, Koreans are generally favorable toward the U.S. The Pew survey showed that the Korean favorability rating toward the U.S. had decreased from 58 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2002, and dropped to 46 percent in 2003. But it has risen again to 70 percent in 2008 and 78 percent in 2009. This year, the rating reached 79 percent, which indicates that while both anti-American and pro-American sentiments exist in Korean society, there is a stronger tendency for pro-American sentiment these days.

However, we don’t need to project our internal anti-American or pro-American tendencies abroad because the international community is a stage for pursuing national interests more than anything. But we inevitably face anti-Americanism on the international stage, and it poses two problems for us.

The first is that Koreans do not understand that foreigners have distinctly different reasons for harboring anti-American or pro-American sentiments. There are many causes of anti-Americanism, including psychological factors such as frustration and jealousy, international political influences such as repulsion for Washington’s foreign policy, cultural factors such as feelings of U.S. cultural superiority and historical factors such as U.S. aggression in Central and South America.

Other countries have their own particular reasons for their anti-Americanism, and we need to understand that their motivations can be different from how Koreans may feel about the U.S. Second, Korea’s pro-American tendency could lead to unnecessary misunderstandings. In June, Korean diplomats were expelled from Libya, and the incident was not unrelated to anti-Americanism in the country. In September 2009, Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi criticized the U.S. when he spoke at the United Nations.

However, our local coverage of his speech is considered to have been one of the causes for the diplomatic discord between Korea and Libya. Perhaps we lacked sufficient understanding of the root causes of Qaddafi’s anti-Americanism.

We need to take special caution when dealing with countries that consider the U.S. in the same light with Christianity, because many people feel a combination of anti-Americanism and anti-Christianity. Lately, for example, anti-American sentiment has turned extreme in Pakistan.

According to the Pew report, only 17 percent of Pakistanis feel favorable toward the U.S., while 18 percent do toward Al Qaeda. What’s more, 59 percent of them considered the U.S. an enemy of Pakistan. Anti-Christian extremists have committed murders and arson throughout the country. The Korean government would be wise to make plans to ensure the safety of missionaries and other Korean citizens working and living abroad.

*The writer is an editor of the JoongAng Sunday.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

By Kim Whan-yung
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