- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

SEOUL American residents and regular visitors say recent months have brought a startling rise in anti-U.S. sentiment in South Korea, one of America's closest allies since the countries fought side by side in the 1950-53 Korean War.
Diplomats say the phenomenon has as much to do with a new self-confidence among Koreans as with routine grievances and resentment at Bush administration policies toward North Korea.
They say there's still a deep reservoir of warm feelings for Americans.
But opinion polls support anecdotal evidence of unprecedented hostility reported by many Americans, and the U.S. Embassy in Seoul is sufficiently concerned to be planning a public outreach campaign to counter the trend.
Seoul resident Katrin Fraser, writing in the spring issue of the Korea Society Quarterly, said she was hit by a wave of anger after a South Korean speed skater was disqualified at the Salt Lake City Olympics, giving the gold medal to an American.
"For the first time since my arrival in Korea in July 2000, I felt targeted by anti-U.S. feeling simply because I look American," she wrote. "It was no longer fringe protesters who were at the heart of this movement it seemed to have infiltrated the mainstream."
Long-standing resentment at the basing of 37,000 American troops in the country resentment which gets stronger as Korean War memories fade and the threat from the North diminishes also is a factor. Those feelings were exacerbated by an accident in June in which two teenage girls were run over and killed by a U.S. armored vehicle participating in a training exercise.
Still more of the bitterness stems from the tough stance taken by the Bush administration toward North Korea, a position blamed both by government officials and the public for slow progress in the Seoul government's effort at rapprochement with the North.
The Washington Times reported yesterday that Undersecretary of State John Bolton is considering delivering during a visit to Seoul next week a toughly worded critique of North Korea that is likely to further inflame that resentment.
There is also recognizable sentiment among younger Koreans that the United States has adopted a bullying attitude in the world since the September 11 attacks. The Internet portal Daum.com was filled with messages blaming the United States for everything from the Korean War to the oppression of the Palestinians in the days and weeks after the attacks.
"Mix [the armored-vehicle incident] up with the 'axis of evil' remarks, which irritated and alienated a lot of people in this country, the perception that the Bush administration is not as enthusiastic as the previous one on negotiations with North Korea, and that it is unilateralist and doesn't listen closely to the needs of its allies, and it's a recipe for resentment toward the United States," a senior Western diplomat said.
A survey conducted by Potomac Associates for the Korean Society Quarterly, which is published in New York by Donald P. Gregg, U.S. ambassador to Seoul from 1989 to 1993, found that 49 percent of South Koreans believe that feelings of anti-Americanism are growing, compared with 8 percent who think they are declining.
"The image of America has changed enormously among South Koreans since September 11," a local wire service reporter said in an interview this month. "Most people now see the United States as an angry and mighty giant who doesn't care what others, including friends, think or need."
Some veteran Korea hands see such talk as the natural outgrowth of the country's graduation from a client state to a dynamic and vibrant member of the international community. "What is happening out there is a result of the increasing sophistication, economic success and self-confidence of this country, which have caused it to question some of its old ways, values and relationships," the senior Western diplomat said.
He compared this "natural process" with similar developments after World War II, when Japan, Germany and other European powers gradually recovered from the war's devastation with U.S. help and became increasingly independent. South Korea "is maturing into a democracy and doesn't want daddy around," agreed Wendy Sherman, the top official on North Korea in the Clinton administration.
"The young generation has no memory" of the Korean War and does not understand what U.S. troops are doing in their country, she said.
Lee Tae-sik, South Korea's deputy foreign minister, also said the rising anti-Americanism "comes with the demographic structure" in which two-thirds of the country's citizens are younger than 40.
"We used to be rather reticent in domestic politics when we were young," he said. "These young people now are very active and outspoken."
Young Koreans still flock to see Hollywood movies and benefit from U.S.-developed technologies. They also want to go to the United States and, in some cases, never return. "The United States is No. 1 and naturally attracts attention," said Kim Kyung-won, a Seoul scholar and former ambassador to Washington. "People here say, 'Yankees, go home,' but they add, 'Take me with you.'"
The U.S. Embassy is trying to deal with the problem by stepping up speaking engagements and meetings with journalists and media executives, as well as private gatherings in diplomats' homes, officials said.
Improving the relationship with the Korean newspapers and broadcast networks is regarded as especially important in light of the extremely negative coverage of the teenage girls' deaths. Although half a dozen American officials, from the commander of the U.S. forces to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, have apologized for the accident, some newspapers still demand an apology from President Bush.

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