The recent slashing of U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert is a good example of how things aren’t always as they seem, especially when it comes to U.S. foreign policy.
Before the attack, Lippert had embraced Korean culture: He gave his newborn son a Korean middle name and took walks with his dog, saying hello to the locals who approached.
So what happened?
In a nutshell: Opposition to American troops in South Korea.
Koreans haven’t always loved the presence of about 29,000 U.S. troops, and the acquittal of U.S. servicemen whose vehicles struck and killed two Korean girls in 2002 exacerbated Korean feelings. Some also blame the U.S. for the division of the Koreas.
More broadly, it comes down to Korean nationalism and the desire to kick out its “big brother protector.”
South Korea’s sometimes strained relationship with the U.S. is important to understand and is likely to evolve over time in response to moves by the region’s other power players: North Korea, China and Japan.
Catch up with these stories (some of which have been linked above):
- “South Korea’s Forgotten War”: A good starting point in understanding the creation of two Koreas and the lasting impact of the Korean War
- “South Korea’s Amazing Rise”: A brief look at how South Korea emerged as a regional power despite the odds
- “Korean Family Reunions Become a Pawn in Cold War Politics”: A humanizing story of the impact of a divided Korea and gives some insight into the generational differences of Koreans
- “Anti-American Sentiment Rises in S. Korea”: From 1986, one of the first instances of widespread, public anger over the U.S.
- “Are U.S. Troops in South Korea Still Necessary?”: A recent column that argues maintaining a military base in South Korea isn’t critical to U.S. interests and is actually harmful to the region
- “Between Giants: South Korea and the U.S.-China Rivlary”: From 2012, a brief look at South Korea hedging its bets between China and the U.S.
- “South Koreans Divided on Reactions to Knife Attack on U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert”: Highlights the ideological differences of some Koreans and their views on far how their government should cater to the U.S.
- ” ‘Cheap Applause’: Real Root of Knife Attack on US Ambassador to S. Korea?”: A great explainer on how the U.S.’ relationship with Japan could be damaging its relationship with South Korea
- “Gangnam Nationalism: Why Psy’s Anti-American Rap Shouldn’t Surprise You”: You can thank the rise of Psy in the U.S. for most Americans learning (or remembering? 9/11 seemed to reset a lot of Boomers/Gen-Xers memories) of their country’s not-so gung-ho ally