South Korea has joined with only two other countries in the world in dropping the name of the forthcoming film “Captain America” and using the subtitle, “The First Avenger.” The other two countries are Russia and Ukraine. According to the New York Times report, “Although that country (South Korea) is one of Hollywood’s top-performing territories, resentment about the continued presence of the United States military runs deep.”
For years now, I have intended to write a column about the most glaring case of international ingratitude of which I am aware. The “Captain America” story has finally pushed me over the edge.
For decades, there have been anti-U.S. demonstrations in South Korea. And each time I wonder the same thing: Do these people have any idea what the living hell known as North Korea is like? Do these people understand that the United States is the reason they are so free and prosperous, completely unlike their fellow North Koreans who had the horrible luck not to be liberated by America? Do these people know how many Americans died to enable them to be free?
Whenever I confront someone who claims that America’s wars abroad were fought for economic gain or to extend its alleged imperialist empire, I ask the person about the Korean War: What imperialist or economic reasons were there to fight in that country?
The answer I most often receive is, “Frankly I don’t know too much about the Korean War.” And it’s a good thing for the critics of America’s wars that they don’t know much about the Korean War. If they did, they would either experience cognitive dissonance or have to severely modify their position on America’s wars.
Just five years after a war-weary America celebrated the end of World War II, Americans were asked to fight the successor-evil to Nazism, communism, in Korea, a country most Americans could not identify on a map or did not know anything about. In an earlier version of what happened in Vietnam, the Soviet Union and China backed a communist attempt to take over the southern half of the Korean peninsula — the northern half had been communist since the end of World War II — and install a Stalinist tyranny over the non-communist southern half.
Over 36,000 Americans died in America’s successful attempt to keep South Korea from becoming communist. And another 92,000 were wounded.
So, forgive me for the contempt I feel for South Koreans who demonstrate against the United States and for the two-thirds of South Koreans who, according to a 2002 Gallup-Korea poll, view the United States unfavorably. Whenever I see those anti-American demonstrators or read such polls, all I can think about are the tens of thousands of Americans who died so that South Koreans would not live in the communist hell their fellow Koreans live in.
Younger South Koreans want American troops to leave their country? Do these young people not know that on planet Earth no other country suffers the mass enslavement, mass incarceration, mass death or the deadening of the mind and soul that North Koreans endure because of the psychopaths who run that country?
And if they do know all this about North Korea, how do they explain why South Korea is so different?
Here is a suggestion: The South Korean government should conduct a national plebiscite on whether America should withdraw its troops from that country. Before the South Korean people vote, the United States should make it clear that if it withdraws its troops and North Korea later invades the South, we will send no troops to die again for South Korea — but we will vote to condemn North Korea’s aggression at the United Nations.
If a majority of the South Korean people wants us to leave, we should.
The beauty of such a plebiscite is that if a majority of the South Korean people wants American troops out, we have no moral obligation to stay there. And if a majority wants us to stay, the South Korean left and other ingrates in that country should shut up.
I have been to South Korea, and I live in a community with many Koreans. I have always admired their industriousness, work ethic and strong families. But South Korea is surely the most ungrateful country in the world. Which is all the more remarkable since it is also the luckiest.