JoongAng Ilbo senior columnist Kim Young-hie presents some very powerful arguments for sending Korean troops to Afghanistan:
The dispatch was approved by the National Assembly. Still, many Koreans may wonder why we need to send young soldiers to the harsh terrain in South Asia when we appear to have few ties to impoverished and war-ridden Afghanistan.
We can find the answer when we think back on our June 25 civil war 60 years ago. As the unprepared South Korean army was helplessly trying to defend the Nakdong River line, sending aides of President Syngman Rhee to discuss setting up a government in exile in Yamaguchi Prefecture in Japan, forces from 15 countries under the United Nations banner came to the rescue and helped to turn the tide of the war.
During the three-year war, 930,000 young men from 15 different countries fought for the lives of South Korean people and saved them from a communist takeover. To the families and countrymen of those young men, a small country in the far east of Asia would have seemed as distant and strange as Afghanistan is to us. South Korea then was a country taking baby steps as independent democratic state after a 35-year colonial rule by Japan.
Moreover, she argues, the deployment is an opportunity to train experts in the South Asian region:
But our venture in Afghanistan will end in a lost opportunity if we don’t repay old debts. We must generate greater value from our contribution. Only one out of 10 soldiers who wanted to go to Afghanistan were selected. These men together with 150 civilian aid workers of the Provincial Reconstruction Team should be encouraged to employ their expertise and language skills to become experts on the South Asian region. The gain to the country will be priceless if dozens of regional experts in diplomatic and corporate fields are born through this process.
Their eyes will be opened to an entirely new world and their hearts inspired with a pioneering and enterprising spirit. Their experience in Afghanistan and South Asia will be invaluable to them as individuals as well as the country if they can use it to seed their future.
Fair enough — you know what they say, of course, about war being God’s way of teaching Americans geography. Having regional experts — civilian and military — never hurts. But if the future they’ll be seeding is one of chasing goat herders around the the middle of Bumfuck, Afghanistan for nine years as Central Asian kleptocrats pillage your tax payers, all to fight terrorists who are just as likely (if not more so) to live in London as they do in Kabul, then best of luck to you.