Korea Deserves Attn.
To the Editor:
Last Wednesday, we were appalled to learn about [President George W.] Bush’s recent decision to stop talks between North Korea and the U.S. as was announced at a press conference on the meeting between President Bush and President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea. It came as a surprise considering the recent headway made after the historical summit between the North and South Korean leaders, Kim Jong Il and Kim Dae Jung, last June. Bush justifies this decision by claiming he is uncertain of North Korea’s compliance with U.S.-North Korea agreements. However, according to a March 8 article in the New York Times, there is only one agreement between the U.S. and North Korea and there has been no evidence to show that North Korea has violated the 1994 accord.
Following the Bush-Kim talks, North Korea unexpectedly cancelled a scheduled meeting with South Korea, mere hours before the two sides were to convene on Tuesday March 13. They did not cite reasons why nor make plans to reschedule.
Relations between North and South Korea have been unstable and tenuous since their division was created by allied forces following World War II. The Korean War resulted five years later, killing an estimated four million innocent Korean people.
Following the division, the U.S. has asserted its influence over South Korea, contributing to the nature of the nation’s economic, political and military structure. In the last 50 years, South Korea has been one of the largest recipients of U.S. economic aid. However, in many instances, this aid has been contingent on U.S. interests in South Korean affairs. Today, there are approximately 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. All these factors help to define the current condition of Korea.
The U.S. government maintains that its interests are secondary to South Korean goals, claiming that it will not push the U.S. agenda. Yet it is clear the South Korean government remains highly dependent on maintaining good relations with the U.S., therefore hindering South Korean autonomy. Although the Bush administration does not oppose Korean reunification, this recent decision indicates that Bush does not hold Korean reunification as a priority nor recognize the urgency of continued talks.
Bush’s apathy toward Korea has been met with little resistance, understanding or concern. It is amazing how little most Americans know or care about Korea, considering how much the U.S. influences South Korea. It is important that we do not back-track on such a pressing and complex issue such as Korean reunification. The dismantling of this barrier between North and South Korea is a symbolic destruction of the last remnants of the Cold War. This has real consequences not only for the people of both North and South Korea, but for people throughout the world.
We also want to emphasize that these events have more than just purely political or economic consequences. As witnessed by the reunification of Korean families this past summer who have been separated for over 50 years, this event also holds a deep personal and emotional significance for many Koreans/Korean Americans.
We hope that this letter will stimulate interest and dialogue, as well as a critical examination of Bush’s foreign policy. This letter serves as only the beginning of mobilization on this issue. Only through education and activism can change be instituted.
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