Don Henley wrote in his song “It’s a Long Way Home”:
Oh it’s cold and lonley here
Here in this telephone booth
There’s three sides to every story darlin’
There’s yours and there’s mine and the cold hard truth…
Which is really the point of this editorial in the Korea Times. An excerpt:
Some Koreans object to the U.S. military presence because they feel American bases get a great deal on Korean land and the Korean government pays astronomical levels for troops here. Aspects of this might be true, but the U.S. has greatly helped develop Korea’s economy to internationally astronomical levels. Yes, the Korean government spends a significant amount on defense, but if the Koreans could not have relied on the Americans here then more military spending would have been necessary. If so, either Korea would not have had the required funds to develop their economic standing rapidly, or each Korean would have had a lot less disposable income as they would have had to pay more taxes. Granted, Koreans can be considered diligent workers and can be proud of helping their society’s advancement, but large degrees of the level of development in Korea and the level of affluence among Koreans is indirectly a result of America’s presence.
In addition, U.S. soldiers stationed here have paid a human emotional cost by being away from their loved ones. If people feel Americans do not pay enough for their bases or other costs, these same people should take a sobering stroll around the War Memorial and as they see the names of the multitude of dead U.S. and U.N. soldiers they should remember that freedom is not free. All of this is to protect Korea from a crazed regime in North Korea.
In all honesty, I have not encountered any overt anti-Americanism from anyone I have met during my short time in Korea. In fact, the opposite has been true. But like anywhere else, there are going to be people who don’t like you or resent the fact that you are occupying some prime real estate in their country. Regardless of the fact that your whole reason for being here is to defend that real estate.
It is unfortunate that the relatively few incidents involving bad conduct of USFK personnel get blown out of proportion in the Korean media, but you know I suspect the US press would do the same thing. Hell, they are masters at ignoring all the good news in Iraq while every roadside bomb is worthy of headlines.
Anyway, the editiorial presents some balance and that is a good thing. There is some tension between the US and ROK governments right now on how to deal with the NORKs and how to fund our presence here, but I honestly believe that the vast majority of the Korean people do in fact appreciate what we have done and are doing and respect the sacrafices we are making in their defense.