South Korea–United States relations

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South Korea–United States relations
Map indicating locations of South Korea and United States

South Korea

United States
Diplomatic mission
South Korean Embassy, Washington D.C.United States Embassy, Seoul
Envoy
Ambassador Cho Yoon-jeAmbassador Harry B. Harris Jr.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (left) with U.S. President Donald Trump (right) in the White House, April 2019.

South Korea–United States relations (Korean한미관계; Hanja韓美關係; RRHanmi gwangye) refers to international relations between South Korea and the United States. Relations commenced since 1950, when the United States helped establish the modern state of South Korea, also known as the Republic of Korea, and fought on its UN-sponsored side in the Korean War (1950–1953). During the subsequent four decades, South Korea experienced tremendous economic, political and military growth, and significantly reduced U.S. dependency.

Relations between the United States and South Korea strengthened under the conservative, pro-American Lee Myung-bak administration. At the 2009 G20 London summit, U.S. President Barack Obama called South Korea "one of America's closest allies and greatest friends."[1] In 1989, South Korea was among the first batch of countries to be designated as a major non-NATO ally.[2]

According to academics David Shambaugh and Michael Yahuda, there are currently several security factors shaping the alliance:

  1. The challenges posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile program and the potential of weapons proliferation to other states,
  2. The impact of peace and reunification developments on the Korean peninsula on the strategic relationship between the United States and China, and
  3. The potential impact of events on the Korean peninsula on Japan and Sino-Japanese rivalry.[3]

According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 58% of South Koreans view the United States' influence positively, while 28% view it negatively; 55% of Americans view South Korea's influence positively, while 34% view it negatively.

The new US Ambassador to South Korea arrived in Seoul on July 7, 2018. The post had been vacant since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. Harry Harris, a former head of the US military's Pacific Command, has expressed his resolve to work as an ambassador to strengthen the alliance between the United States and South Korea.[4]

Country comparison[edit]

Leaders of South Korea and the United States from 1950

Harry S. TrumanDwight D. EisenhowerJohn F. KennedyLyndon B. JohnsonRichard NixonGerald FordJimmy CarterRonald ReaganGeorge H. W. BushBill ClintonGeorge W. BushBarack ObamaDonald TrumpSyngman RheeYun PosunPark Chung-heeChun Doo-hwanRoh Tae-wooKim Young-samKim Dae-jungRoh Moo-hyunLee Myung-bakPark Geun-hyeMoon Jae-inUnited StatesSouth Korea

Historical background[edit]

The United States and Korea's Joseon Dynasty established diplomatic relations under the 1882 Treaty of Peace, Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, and the first U.S. diplomatic envoy arrived in Korea in 1883. US-Korea relations continued until 1905, when Japan assumed direction over Korean foreign affairs. In 1910, Japan began a 35-year period of colonial rule over Korea.[5]

Following Japan's surrender to the Allies in 1945, at the end of World War II, the Korean Peninsula was divided at the 38th parallel into two occupation zones, with the United States in the South and the Soviet Union in the North. Initial talks in 1945-6 to achieve a unified, independent Korea were not successful, and in 1948 two separate nations were established - the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the South, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North. In 1949, the United States established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea.[5][6]

Korean War (6.25 War)[edit]

Cross-border skirmishes and raids at the 38th Parallel escalated into open warfare when the North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950.[7] The Korean War broke out when North Korea invaded South Korea. In response, 16 member countries of the United Nations, including the United States, came to the defense of South Korea. It was the first significant armed conflict of the Cold War with extensive deployment of U.S. and other troops.[8]

Letter from President of South Korea Lee Myung-bak
… About 37,000 Americans lost their lives. They fought for the freedom of Koreans they did not even know, and thanks to their sacrifices, the peace and democracy of the republic were protected. … On this significant occasion, all Koreans pay tribute to the heroes fallen in defense of freedom and democracy. I firmly believe that future generations in both countries will further advance the strong Republic of Korea–U.S. alliance into one befitting the spirit of the new age.[9]

Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2010

Origins of the South Korea–United States alliance[edit]

General Douglas MacArthur and Rhee Syngman, Korea's first President, warmly greet one another upon the General's arrival at Kimpo Air Force Base alt text
General Douglas MacArthur and Rhee Syngman, Korea's first President

Following the end of World War II, the United States established a bilateral alliance with South Korea instead of establishing a multilateral alliance with South Korea and other East Asian countries.

Moreover, the "U.S. alliance with South Korea would consequently have three functions. First, it would serve as part of a network of alliances and military installations designed to ring the Soviet threat in the Pacific. Second, it would deter a second North Korean attack, with U.S. ground troops serving as the "tripwire" guaranteeing U.S. involvement. Third, it would restrain the South from engaging in adventurism."[10]

The United States and South Korea are allies under the 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty. Under the agreement, U.S. military personnel have maintained a continuous presence on the Korean peninsula.

US military in Korea[edit]

American Soldiers and Korean War veterans honor fallen comrades

South Korea and the United States agreed to a military alliance in 1953.[11] They called it "the relationship forged in blood".[12] In addition, roughly 29,000 United States Forces Korea troops are stationed in South Korea. In 2009, South Korea and the United States pledged to develop the alliance's vision for future defense cooperation.[13] Currently South Korean forces would fall under United States control should the war resume. This war time control is planned to revert to South Korea in 2020.[14]

At the request of the United States, President Park Chung-hee sent troops to Vietnam to assist American troops during the Vietnam War, maintaining the second largest contingent of foreign troops after the United States. In exchange, the United States increased military and economic assistance to South Korea. President Roh Moo-hyun, despite having been elected on a liberal platform, also authorized dispatching a small contingent of troops to Iraq in 2004 at the request of President George W. Bush.[citation needed]

Since 2009 air forces of South Korea and the U.S.A. have conducted the annual joint exercises named "Max Thunder". In 2018 the drills began on May 11 and continued until May 17.[15]

President John F. Kennedy greets General Park Chung-hee, November 1961

At a Cabinet meeting in Seoul on 10 July 2018 the government has decided not to hold this year's Ulchi drill scheduled for next month. Government said the decision was made in line with recent political and security improvements on the peninsula and the suspension of South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises.[16]

The current South Korean President Moon Jae-in, elected in May 2017, has said he supports the continuation of sanctions against North Korea if it is aimed at bringing North Korea out of its state of isolation and to the negotiating table. He also argued, at the same time, that he was against a "sanctions-only" approach toward North Korea.[17] His approach to North Korea is similar to Kim Dae-jung's Sunshine Policy, which only continued up to the Roh Mu-hyun's administration.[citation needed]

In 2018 there were several rounds of talks regarding sharing the cost of U.S forces in South Korea. These reflect Washington's desire for South Korea to share a "greater burden" of the costs of the military deployment.[18] On February 10, 2019, South Korea and the United States confirmed that a year long deal for keeping American troops, numbering 28,500, in South Korea had been made. This was in exchanged for South Korea paying 925 million dollars to the United States.[19]

South Korea-U.S. relations have also been strengthened over the years from state to state cooperation that has largely remained out of the public purview. An example of this is the American assistance that was discretely given to the South Korean government immediately following the 1983 Rangoon Bombing assassination attempt against President Chun Doo-hwan, which killed 21 people including Chun's Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Commerce. The United States quietly provided military and logistics support to ensure that the surviving delegates and bodies of the deceased were safely returned to Korea. According to Victor Cha, an academic and former Director for Asian Affairs in the White House's National Security Council, a South Korean official recounted to him the sentiment that “this is what only a true ally like the United States was capable of doing, in ways that would never become public but would be remembered.”[20]

Nuclear and missile diplomacy[edit]

Between 1958 and 1991, the United States based a variety of nuclear weapons in South Korea. The number reached a peak of 950 warheads in 1967. Since 1991, when President George H. W. Bush announced the withdrawal of all tactical nuclear weapons based abroad, the Korean peninsula has seen ongoing efforts by the U.S. to negotiate an end to North Korea's own nuclear and missile development. These efforts have been characterized by "stalemates, crises and tentative progress." Despite the ongoing tensions, the U.S. has not redeployed nuclear weapons, although one recent press report suggests a majority of South Koreans are in favor of developing their own nuclear weapons. South Korea announced the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile defense system at the end of 2017.[21]

Opinion polls[edit]

According to Pew Research Center, 84% of South Koreans have a favorable view towards the United States and Americans (ranked within top 4 among the countries in the world).[22][23] Also, according to a Korean Gallup poll, South Korea views the U.S. as the most favorable country in the world.[24] On the political side, the United States supported South Korea after 1945 as a "staunch bastion against communism", even when the ROK itself was ruled by a US-backed dictatorship.[25] In a March 2011 Gallup Poll, 74% of South Koreans said that they believe that the U.S. influence in the world is favorable,[26] and in a November 2011 Gallup Poll, 57% of South Koreans approved of U.S. leadership, with 22% disapproving.[27] In a 2011 Gallup poll, a 65% favorability rating, the highest rating to date.[26]

According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 58% of South Koreans view U.S. influence positively, the highest rating for any surveyed Asian country.[28]

Anti-American sentiment in South Korea[edit]

US Military comfort women[edit]

In 1953, at the end of the Korean War, the number of prostitutes in South Korea was estimated as about 350,000, with about 60% working near U.S. military camps.[29] In the post - Korean War period, the U.S military continued to contribute significantly to the South Korean economy - providing an estimated 1% of the South Korean GNP in 1991, including the sex industry.[30] Despite the world-wide growth of women's human rights advocacy since the 1990s, and the shift towards foreign workers providing sex services for U.S troops, (particularly women trafficked from the Philippines and the former Soviet Union), prostitution via "juicy bars" remains an issue near U.S. bases in South Korea.[31][32]

1992 Yun Geum-i murder[edit]

In 1992, Yun Geum-i, a 26 year old woman, was brutally killed by a U.S. serviceman, Private Kenneth L. Markle, in Dongducheon.[33][34]In August 1993, the U.S. government compensated the victim's family with a payment of about US$72,000.[35] Markle was sentenced by a South Korean court to life imprisonment, later reduced to 15 years. Professor Katharine Moon notes that the murder was not unique, and did not spark a national debate about the presence of U.S. forces. However, it did become a "call to action" for some Koreans, and led to the establishment of the "National Campaign for the Eradication of Crimes by U.S. troops."

Environmental degradation[edit]

1n July 2000, the Eighth U.S. Army apologized for an incident where formaldehyde, a toxic fluid, was released into the Han River in February that year.[36] More recently, South Korean environmentalist groups have protested about other spills, including from the US garrison at Yongsan.[37]

2008 Beef protests in South Korea[edit]

The Government of South Korea banned imports of U.S. beef in 2003 in response to a case of mad cow disease in Washington state. In 2008, the protests against U.S. beef recalled the student "pro-democracy" movements of the 1980s. Nevertheless, by 2010 South Korea had become the world's third largest U.S. beef importer. With its strong import growth, South Korea surpassed Japan for the first time to become the largest market for U.S. beef in Asia and in 2016 US beef imports in Korea reached a value of $1 billion.[38][39]

Opposition to THAAD[edit]

The rollout of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) has been met with domestic opposition in South Korea. The opposition has been on the grounds that the North Korean threat has gone, and on environmental grounds.[40][41][42][43] THAAD was deployed under the regime of ROK President Park Geun-hye. Her opponents accused her of "bow[ing] too readily to America's requests."[43] According to South China Morning Post, when Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn visited Seongju to appease the local backlash against THAAD, demonstrators blocked Hwang's buses and pelted him with eggs and water bottles. The progressive People’s Party also opposes the deployment.[43]

The decision to deploy THAAD in South Korea has been opposed and criticized by China and Russia who have accused the US of "destabilizing [the] region."[44][45][46][47] On 30 October 2017, South Korea and China agreed to normalize relations, which had rifted due to THAAD deployment.[48]

Economic relations[edit]

South Korea has experienced significant economic growth in the years since the Korean War, sometimes referred to as the Miracle on the Han River.[49]

As of 2019, China is the ROK's largest trading partner, behind Japan (2nd) and the United States (3rd).[50][51] Exports to the United States have fallen from 40 percent in the late 1980s to less than 20 percent in 2002.[52]

Disputes[edit]

There remains some major trade disputes between the ROK and the USA in the areas including telecommunications, automotive industry, intellectual property rights issues, pharmaceutical industry, and the agricultural industry.[53]

South Korea's export-driven economy and competition with domestic U.S. producers in certain fields of products have led to some trade friction with the United States. For example, imports of certain steel and non-steel products have been subject to U.S. anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations. A total of 29 U.S. imports from South Korea have been assessed.[54]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ President Obama Vows Strengthened U.S.-South Korea Ties Archived 2009-07-04 at the Wayback Machine 2 Apr 2009. Embassy of the United States, Seoul
  2. ^ "Trump bumps up Brazil to 'major non-NATO' ally". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 2019-10-13.
  3. ^ Shambaugh, David (2014). International Relations of Asia. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 306. ISBN 978-1-4422-2641-8.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ a b "U.S. Relations With the Republic of Korea". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  6. ^ Gilbert, Martin (1998). A History of the Twentieth Century. London: Harper Collins Publishers. p. 782–783. ISBN 0002158698.
  7. ^ Devine, Robert A.; Breen, T. H.; Frederickson, George M.; Williams, R. Hal; Gross, Adriela J.; Brands, H.W. (2007). America Past and Present 8th Ed. Volume II: Since 1865. Pearson Longman. pp. 819–821. ISBN 978-0-321-44661-9.
  8. ^ Hermes, Jr., Walter (1992) [1966]. Truce Tent and Fighting Front. United States Army Center of Military History. pp. 2, 6–9. CMH Pub 20-3-1.
  9. ^ From South Korea, a note of thanks June 25, 2010. Los Angeles Times
  10. ^ Cha, Victor (Winter 2009–2010). Powerplay: Origins of U.S. Alliances in Asia. p. 174.
  11. ^ The ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty Archived 2011-01-22 at the Wayback Machine Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the United States
  12. ^ Speeches of U.S. Ambassador, March 20, 2009 Archived May 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
    … One of the first phrases I learned in Korean, I heard in Korean, when people talked about the US-Korea relationship, was 혈맹관계, "the relationship forged in blood." I remember how moved I was by that, by the passion which people used in talking about it. Our relationship, as you all well know, goes further back even than that …
    (March 20, 2009, U.S. Ambassador in the Republic of Korea)
  13. ^ Joint Statement of ROK-US Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting 07-21-2010. The Korea Times
  14. ^ "US, South Korea agree to again delay handover of wartime operational control to Seoul."
  15. ^ https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-39656840/us-and-south-korea-carry-out-max-thunder-military-drill
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ "US and South Korea agree to 'stronger' sanctions against North Korea". Deutsche Welle. September 17, 2017. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  18. ^ [3]
  19. ^ "South Korea says it will pay a bit more to host American troops". The Economist. 2019-02-16. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  20. ^ Cha, Victor D. The impossible state: North Korea, past and future (1st Ecco paperback ed.). New York: Ecco. ISBN 9780061998515. OCLC 852160421.
  21. ^ Davenport, Kelsey; Sanders-Zakre, Alicia (July 2019). "Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy". www.armscontrol.org. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  22. ^ Opinion of the United States Pew Research Center
  23. ^ South Koreans remain strongly pro-American Pew Research Center
  24. ^ "한국에 긍정적 영향을 미친 국가는 미국 " 80.7% (80.7% Korean think US gave most positive influence to Korea)(in Korean)
  25. ^ Stockwell, Eugene (1976-05-01). "South Korea's leader Communism's best ally?". The Gadsden Times. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
  26. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-11-23. Retrieved 2013-03-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. ^ U.S. Leadership Approval Ratings Top China's in Asia Gallup (company)
  28. ^ 2014 World Service Poll BBC
  29. ^ Clough, Patricia (2007). The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social. Duke University Press. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-8223-3925-0.
  30. ^ Moon, Katharine H.S (1997). Sex Among Allies. Columbia University Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-231-10643-6. Quoting the newsletter of My Sister's Place, July 1991, p. 8.
  31. ^ Moon, Katharine (12 January 2009). "Military Prostitution and the U.S. Military in Asia". Asia Pacific Journal. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  32. ^ Rowland, Ashley; Chang, Yoo Kyong (30 November 2014). "USFK 'juicy bar' ban has owners up in arms". www.stripes.com. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  33. ^ Cho, Grace M. (2008). Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War. University of Minnesota Press. p. 115. ISBN 978-0816652747. In October 1992, a camptown sex worker named Yun Geum-I was brutally murdered by one of her clients during a dispute.
  34. ^ Moon, Gwang-lip (2011-09-30). "After soldier held for rape, U.S. vows assistance". JoongAng Ilbo. Archived from the original on 2013-06-19. Retrieved 2013-04-12.
  35. ^ "U.S. soldier free after brutal 1992 murder". The Hankyoreh. 2006-10-28. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
  36. ^ Kirk, Don (2006-07-10). "U.S. Dumping Of Chemical Riles Koreans". New York Times. Retrieved 2019-07-08.
  37. ^ Gamel, Kim (2017-04-03). "South Korean activists call for investigation into Yongsan oil spills". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 2019-07-08.
  38. ^ S. Korea becomes world's third largest U.S. beef importer July 16, 2010. People's Daily
  39. ^ US Meat Export Federation. "U.S. beef exports to Korea reach new heights; poised for further growth in 2017". Beef Magazine. Beef Magazine. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  40. ^ "Statement Opposing U.S. THAAD 'Missile Defense' System Deployment in South Korea". www.veteransforpeace.org.
  41. ^ "'No Nukes, No THAAD': South Korean town calls for missile defense..." Reuters. 2018-07-06. Retrieved 2019-05-28.
  42. ^ Lee, Jenny. "THAAD Cost Debate Could Erode US-South Korea Alliance, Experts Say".
  43. ^ a b c "Seoul wants THAAD, but do Koreans?". South China Morning Post. 2016-08-22. Retrieved 2019-05-28.
  44. ^ Diplomat, Jin Kai, The. "The Other Reasons China Wants to Block THAAD Deployment".
  45. ^ Mody, Seema (28 April 2017). "China lashes out as South Korea puts an American anti-missile system in place".
  46. ^ "China, Russia vow to deploy measures against US missiles in South Korea". 13 January 2017.
  47. ^ "China and Russia criticise THAAD missile defence system as destabilising region". South China Morning Post. 2016-07-08. Retrieved 2019-05-28.
  48. ^ Kim, Christine. "China, South Korea agree to mend ties after THAAD standoff".
  49. ^ Howe, Brendan (June 2016). "East Asian 'Econophoria' in Theory and Practice". Asian International Studies Review. 17 (1): 101–120. doi:10.16934/isr.17.1.201606.101.
  50. ^ "OEC - South Korea (KOR) Exports, Imports, and Trade Partners". atlas.media.mit.edu. Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  51. ^ bridgat. "South Korea Major Trade Partners – Bridgat.com". Retrieved 2019-07-04.
  52. ^ Noland, M. (2003). The Strategic Importance of US-Korea Economic Relations. International Economics Policy Briefs. Retrieved from http://www.iie.com/publications/pb/pb03-6.pdf
  53. ^ Manyin, M. (2004). South Korea-U.S. Economic Relations: Cooperation, Friction, and Future Prospects. CRS Report for Congress. Retrieved from https://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/34347.pdf
  54. ^ Editorial, Reuters. "South Korea to take dispute on U.S. steel anti-dumping duties to WTO". U.S. Retrieved 2018-10-01.

Further reading[edit]

  • Baldwin, Frank, ed. Without Parallel: The American-Korean Relationship since 1945 (1973).
  • Berger, Carl. The Korean Knot: A Military-Political History (U of Pennsylvania Press, 1964).
  • Chay, Jongsuk. Diplomacy of Asymmetry: Korea-American Relations to 1910 (U of Hawaii Press, 1990).
  • Chung, Jae Ho. Between Ally and Partner: Korea-China Relations and the United States (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Cumings, Bruce. The Origins of the Korean War: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945-1947 (Princeton UP, 1981).
  • Cumings, Bruce. ed. Child of Conflict: The Korean-American Relationship, 1943-1953 (U of Washington Press, 1983).
  • Dennett, Tyler. "Early American Policy in Korea, 1883-7." Political Science Quarterly 38.1 (1923): 82-103. in JSTOR
  • Denett, Tyler. Americans in East Asia: A Critical Study of the Policy of the United States with References to China, Japan, and Korea in the Nineteenth Century. (1922) online free
  • Harrington, Fred Harvey. God, Mammon, and the Japanese: Dr. Horace N. Allen and Korean- American Relations, 1884-1905. (U of Wisconsin Press, 1944).
  • Heo, Uk and Terence Roehrig. 2018. The Evolution of the South Korea-United States Alliance. Cambridge University Press.
  • Hong, Hyun Woong. "American Foreign Policy Toward Korea, 1945-1950" (PhD dissertation, Oklahoma State University, 2007) online bibliography pp 256–72.
  • Kim, Byung-Kook; Vogel, Ezra F. The Park Chung Hee Era: The Transformation of South Korea (Harvard UP, 2011).
  • Kim, Seung-young, ed. American Diplomacy and Strategy toward Korea and Northeast Asia, 1882 - 1950 and After (2009) online
  • Lee, Yur-Bok and Wayne Patterson. One Hundred Years of Korean-American Relations, 1882-1982 (1986) online
  • Ryu, Dae Young. "An Odd Relationship: The State Department, Its Representatives, and American Protestant Missionaries in Korea, 1882—1905." Journal of American-East Asian Relations 6.4 (1997): 261-287.
  • Yuh, Leighanne. "The Historiography of Korea in the United States". International Journal of Korean History (2010). 15#2: 127–144.

External links[edit]