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South Korea – the Asian quagmire.

May 2, 2017

A lot of people, particularly millennials and current college attendees, are asking why we even care about Korea, north or south.

Why defend South Korea? After all, it is literally half a world away.

Many millennials sincerely believe that if we would just get on board with the one-worlders, we wouldn’t need to fight over territory. They don’t see why it matters whether Pyongyang has a nuke, because we can just all be friends if we try hard enough.

Perhaps that’s because they don’t teach anything but revisionist history any more, but that pacifist view ignores the archival context.  South Korea has always been a strategic prize.

With so much ink and treasure being expended to defend South Korea the area has once again become an international hot potato.

That’s not a unfamiliar position for the southern Korean peninsula.  It has been invaded by everyone from the Mongols  (in 1231) to the Japanese to the Chinese, back to the Japanese and many nations or ancient dynasties in between. It did not become independent during modern times until the end of the Second World War, when it was recognized as a result of the 1945 Potsdam Declaration.

The peninsula is strategically important to Japan and China because possession of it puts Japan at risk from China  by reason of proximity, and vice versa. From Busan, South Korea, it is a military stone’s throw to mainland Japan. North Korea’s longest successful missile launch to date would have easily hit Hiroshima, Japan, some 200 air miles away, if the North had possession of South Korea.

That makes it strategically important to us only because Japan is our ally and China is not. After all, Japan has already proven it is logistically possible to strike the U.S., and our country remains the biggest spoils of war prize on the planet.

Korea itself was divided as a sort of spoils of war at the 38th parallel when Japan surrendered.

First existing as a sort of United Nations protectorate, South Korea did not become self ruling until 1948.

That didn’t last long, since the north, backed by China, invaded in 1950. When the Korean War, er, police action ended in 1953, the boundaries effectively remained generally where they had been before the conflict started, although the north did lose some 1500 square miles to the demilitarized zone.

That bit of history is important only as context, to explain why we even care whether South Korea remains allied to the West.

As far as the Koreans themselves are concerned, many South Koreans and presumably North Koreans as well, would like there to be just one Korea.

The rub is, would it be a Western-allied democracy, or another extension of Chinese communism?

With the presumptive next political winner in South Korea being what we would term a liberal progressive who is already none too friendly toward the United States making noises about kicking us out of South Korea altogether, the ancient tug-of-war is set to continue.

And yes, Virginia, the outcome  matters.

From → op-ed

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