[Viewpoint] Korea needs national confidence

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[Viewpoint] Korea needs national confidence

Venezuelan journalist Carlos Rangel (1929-1988) wrote in his 1987 book “The Latin Americans: Their Love-Hate Relationship with the United States” that the U.S. is not solely responsible for the problems of Latin America. His argument was a clear juxtaposition to the dependency theory, which blames capitalism and the United States for underdevelopment in the Third World. The book made “love-hate relationships” an important variable in international relations.

Ever since the U.S. gained global hegemony after World War II, it and the rest of the world have had a love-hate relationship. Relations between the U.S. and Europe, the Middle East and the Latin America have been marked by both love and hatred.

Even North Korea does not hate the United States, entirely. There are aspects of a love-hate relationship between the U.S. and North Korea. Pyongyang certainly has not reciprocated love for the United States to attain direct dialogue, withdrawal of U.S. troops and unification.

South Korea already experienced love-hate relationships at an international level with the United States and Japan. Recently, we confirmed that Taiwan is another partner in our love-hate relationship. The international love-hate relationships we have experienced so far have not posed great obstacles to Korea’s industrialization and democratization.

While we had both pro-American and anti-American sentiment, pro-Americanism has always been the dominant trend. The Korea-U.S. alliance has always come before our relationship with Japan, so the love-hate relationship with Japan was never a major variable. Unlike Korea’s case, openly taking a friendly position with America requires considerable courage to many state leaders around the world.

However, there are problems awaiting Korea in the years ahead. The dynamics between the U.S. and China are already described as love-hate. Now the challenges for Korea include wisely responding to the U.S.-China love-hate relationship and preventing Korea-China relations from deteriorating into a love-hate relationship.

When the United States pulled the levers of the world, the international love-hate relationship was perhaps not a big deal. Firstly, its love-hate relationship was not reciprocal. Regions and countries other than the U.S. felt both love and hatred towards the U.S., but the U.S. did not have such mixed feelings. Whatever the rest of the world thinks of the U.S., it did not matter to the militarily, economically and culturally powerful country. However, as the United States ebbs and China rises, we cannot have rosy predictions about the love-hate relationship between the United States and China.

The United States and China are countries with different styles of international behavior. Considering their geographical, historical and cultural backgrounds, a love-hate relationship with China cannot be the same as one with the United States. When discussing love-hate relationships, China can ask why Korea loves the United States only. If we cannot answer the question, it means Korea is vulnerable to the international love-hate relationship.

The love-hate relationship between the United States and the rest of the world had been built on jealousy of America, national pride, misunderstanding and unilateralism.

America’s favoritism of Israel was the main culprit of the love-hate relationships with Europe and the Middle East.

George W. Bush gave a speech in May 2008 on a visit to Jerusalem to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding.

“Israel’s population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you,” the president said.

Can Korea encourage favoritism from the United States so it declares that the U.S. stands with Korea? If we can, would such favoritism be too much with the rise of a powerful China?

In psychology, a love-hate relationship between two close partners, such as lovers and married couples, is normal. But control is needed. In order to control a love-hate relationship, the partners need to acknowledge the existence of such feelings and communicate.

Also, psychologists say that those who lack confidence can fall into love-hate relationships more easily. As Korea navigates an international community full of love-hate relationships, what we desperately need is national confidence.

*The writer is an editor of the JoongAng Sunday.

By Kim Whan-yung
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