Worth the fight?
The group also appeared at the 242nd anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Navy held at the Haeundae Hotel in Busan on October 14 with signs, “Dotard” and “Yankees Go Home.” Chargé d’Affaires Marc Knapper, commander of USFK Vincent Brooks and 400 members of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command were in attendance, and Busan Mayor Seo Byeong-su, ROK Commander in Chief of ROK Fleet and some 250 heads of local agencies were invited.
The entrance to the venue was chaotic as the protesters clashed with attendees. The Haeundae Police had a hard time clearing the route for the U.S. troops to enter the venue. The protesters continued the rally until 8 p.m., claiming that they would not condone U.S. forces enjoying a party after bringing a nuclear submarine to Busan on Oct.13 in preparation for a war.
The group opposes the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan’s entry into the port of Busan and registered for a rally on Oct. 21. It also plans to continue an anti-American rally in front of the Fleet Command until Oct. 31.
Korea’s Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression and assembly, and a group with anti-American sentiment has every right to hold protests. However, the action can be perceived differently depending on the timing and location. Busan Mayor Seo Byeong-su, who attended the US Navy’s party on October 14, said that it was wrong to shout anti-American slogans and use curse words at the celebration, which was considered a birthday bash for the U.S. Navy, especially when a solid Korea-US alliance is important.
With North Korea’s sixth nuclear test and ICBM launch test, tensions are elevated on the Korean Peninsula. U.S. President Donald Trump pledged “total destruction” of North Korea, and Kim Jong-un called Trump “dotard.” As tension grows, people hope for stronger Korea-U.S. alliance.
At this point, a unified stance on foreign policy and security is more important than ever. Many find that it is not desirable to hold protests in front of the U.S. forces using the vulgar expression that North Korea uses for the U.S. President. Hong Gyu-deok, professor of political science and foreign policy at Sookmyung University, said that the anti-American rallies by some groups may be seen as evidence of a divided national stance, when people should have unified voice on foreign policy and security, and asked the protesters to consider whether such rallies would help the national interests or not.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 19, Page 35
*The author is a national news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.