Alliance under Tension: The Evolution of South Korean-U.S. Relations

Alliance under Tension: The Evolution of South Korean-U.S. Relations

Alliance under Tension: The Evolution of South Korean-U.S. Relations

Alliance under Tension: The Evolution of South Korean-U.S. Relations

Excerpt

Manwoo Lee Ronald D. McLaurin Chung In Moon

The centenary of U.S.-Korean relations passed almost unnoticed five years ago, perhaps because the century reflects sharp discontinuities in bilateral relations and, indeed, an extended period in which there was no diplomatic relationship whatsoever. The original opening of Korea to the United States was willful and purposive, designed to provide legitimacy and stability in the face of an already growing threat to Korea's security. The long-term American response was disappointing, as the United States stepped aside while Korea was absorbed step by step into the Japanese empire.

In spite of the active World War II role of some Koreans in the United States and elsewhere in courting U.S. intervention after the war, it is certainly fair to see the American occupation as a new beginning rather than a resumption of historic ties. The Korea American forces occupied in the fall of 1945 was new in many respects: its system of government -- or lack thereof -- bore no resemblance to the initial encounter; its political geography was different, as the 38th parallel was sealed by Soviet troops; and the political, economic, and social forces unleashed by a harsh Japanese occupation and the suppression of all forms of identity and autonomy were powerful and undirected--and certainly new.

More than four decades have passed since U.S. troops first landed on the peninsula. In that brief period, South Korea has experienced invasion and intense warfare; periods of political chaos and harsh autocracy; deprivation and extraordinary economic growth; and an almost cyclical rise and fall of the hopes for greater and more equitable participation in the determination of the political and economic order. The United States has been an intimate insider, a sometimes participant, and at times the decisive factor during this . . .

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