In his blog at the WaPo, Amar Bakshi shares some holiday cheer — or misery — with US GIs in Itaewon:
I turn to my American companions and say half-jokingly, “You’ve got everything from America here.”
“No, man,” comes the response, drunkenly serious. “You’ve got what we all want: freedom.” A young soldier grasps my shoulder for emphasis, and support, chugging beer from a cowboy-hat-shaped mug and spluttering, “You can go home anytime you want. You can be in American anytime you want…We’re stuck here.”
Throughout the night, I hear this refrain again and again. I am free. They are not. Part of it is a fact of military life. They have to trim their hair and report for duty. I don’t. But part of their complaint is larger. It’s about their responsibility to act as U.S. representatives here in South Korea — a country with a complex relationship with America. They’re never as free as I am.
Over here, they tell me, they are never anonymous. A terrible driving accident inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment here in 2002, leading to large rallies and scattered fire-bombings against U.S. bases. But less dramatic, everyday encounters help fuel or subdue anti-American flames. Army Courtesy Patrols make sure Americans and Koreans don’t fight in Itaewon. And U.S. commanders tell their soldiers not to get agitated if shoved on the streets, “because Korea is crowded.”
I think they’re just upset that the English teachers keep hoarding the party goods.
(HT to reader)