The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Category: ROK-US Issues (page 1 of 71)

USFK and the ROK to form a joint division

The USFK and the ROK army has agreed to form a joint division by next year, 2015.  This join division will essentially be the current U.S. 2nd Infantry Division, plus one brigade sized Korean unit.  The division will be commanded by an American two star general and will have a one star Korean deputy general.

(Photo from Yonhap)

Apparently, this division won’t be officially formed until wartime.  The 2nd ID would function and administer itself normally.  However, a Korean brigade sized mechanized infantry unit (heavy on armored personnel carriers and tanks) will be stationed along side the 2nd ID at Camp Humphreys in Pyongtaek (which itself is scheduled to be completed in 2017).  If there’s a war or an emergency situation (i.e. North Korea collapses) then the two units will officially combine.

What does this all mean?  Well, all the sources I’m reading indicates that it will mean the 2nd ID’s 1st Brigade and 2nd Aviation Combat Brigade  (both stationed in Korea) will have a consistent Korean brigade sized unit to train and exercise with.  Additionally, the division will be separate from the Combined Theater Command, i.e. the apparent structure where command of forces in Korea will be transferred to ROK control.

I wonder what this means for the other two combat brigades of the 2nd ID, the 2nd and 3rd Combat Brigades (Stryker), stationed in Ft. Lewis, Washington?  Too early to tell, but the Korean mechanized brigade technically makes one of them redundant.

An American division being augmented by a foreign brigade.  Has this ever happened before?  Even in NATO?

Notes

An American infantry division is about 17-21k men.

A mechanized brigade is about 3,000 to 4,000 men.

 

The WaPo believes Virginia Congressional candidates are pandering to Korean voters

Interestingly, the Washington Post’s editorial board has emphatically come out against Congressional candidates Barbara Comstock (Republican) and John Foust (Democrat) stated desire to introduce legislation to co-teach the “East Sea” along side the “Sea of Japan” in text books.  Both the candidates have made the campaign promise to their Korean American constituencies that, if elected, they will bring up the topic nationally in the U.S. Congress.

The WaPo’s editorial response was surprisingly strong, from the headline (“Pandering to Northern Va.’s Koreans is going to extremes”) right down to the actual text of the article which went into highly rhetorical phrases such as “poking their noses in a bitter dispute…” or “anguish and abuse…” etc.

Well, although I half jokingly said that Virginian Congressional candidates were “pandering” to their Korean American voters in an earlier post, I didn’t think the WaPo’s editorial board would take it so seriously!

Any ways, feel free to comment away.  However, bear in mind that what the Korean Americans in northern Virginia are asking for is that the term “East Sea” be taught along side the “Sea of Japan.”  The Korean Americans here, at last not officially, are not asking for “East Sea” to replace “Sea of Japan.”  Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of confusion on that particular point in this debate.

 

 

USFK MREs STILL popular in Korea?

Apparently so.  Back in 2009 51 Koreans were arrested for illegally selling American MREs.  Well, last month more people have been arrested for selling American MREs!  Apparently, the people are being arrested not so much for selling the MREs but for selling expired MREs (i.e. after 10 years).  Supposedly, Korean hikers and campers like expired American MREs.  At $2 a pop for a meal containing 3,000 calories, it is hard to beat the price too.

Personally, I don’t see how Koreans can be all that excited about 10 year old (or older) beef “patties,” faux pork “ribs,” chili & beans, cajun rice & sausage, meat loaf with gravy, etc.  However, according to this video, even a Desert Storm era MRE can be edible.  Any ways, I just don’t see the aforementioned flavors being all that exciting to the Korean palate.  Anyone have some inside information here?

The U.S. must help mediate between Korea and Japan

So, says Gi-Wook Shin and Daniel C. Sneider over at Foreign Affairs magazine. Shin and Sneider are Director and Associate Director of the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University.

You need to register (it’s free for three article views a month) to see the whole article, but here are a few slices:

Japan and South Korea have made repeated efforts over the past two decades to resolve their wartime history issues, but progress has always proved short-lived. South Korean officials now openly plead for the United States to step in. 

[...]

Even so, China’s bid for regional domination makes it nearly impossible for the United States to continue to stay out of the fray…. By taking a leading role in dealing with the wartime past, the United States could make it difficult for Beijing to use it for political gain.

[...]

The oft-stated notion that the United States has no responsibility for history issues is a convenient myth. The United States made several key decisions right after the war that laid the groundwork for the current dispute. These range from its decision to put aside the issue of the emperor’s responsibility to its efforts to rehabilitate nationalist conservatives — including Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, the wartime minister in charge of Japan’s military industry — to counter Japan’s leftward drift, all of which undermined efforts within Japan to make a clear break with the past...

[...]

Such decisions made sense in the context of the Cold War because of the imperatives of the struggle against the Soviet and Chinese Communists. But they don’t anymore, and it is incumbent on the Untied States to help the region reconcile its past once and for all.

Here is a more moderate appeal (i.e. largely not involving the U.S.) by Ogata Sadako, former president of Japan International Cooperation Agency, Han Sung-Joo, former foreign minister of South Korea and Ezra F. Vogel, professor emeritus at Harvard University, in last Friday’s Washington Post opinion section.

Quest for the T-X Holy Grail

The original rational for Korea Aerospace and Lockheed’s cooperation in developing the T-50 was to build a trainer that could qualify for the “whale” or “mother lode” account: America’s replacement for the venerable, but older than dirt, T-38 Talon.

KAI and Lockheed’s chief rival has always been Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 Master.  In the global pre-battles between KAI and Alenia Aermacchi there have been wins and losses.  Alenia drew first blood with a win in Singapore.  Then KAI won an order from Indonesia.  Alenia won Israel.  KAI got a big order from Iraq.  Alenia won a modest order from Poland.  KAI is apparently dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s with the Philippines.  It’s been back and forth for the past four years.

However, all this is early dress rehearsal for the estimated 350 new jet trainers that the U.S. Air Force will need.  This is, to say the least, a huge account, that neither side can afford to lose, thus both are playing to win.  Alenia has partnered with General Dynamics, one of the largest U.S. based aerospace companies, and has offered to manufacture the M-346 at General Dynamics’ plants in Arizona and North Carolina.  Needless to say the Koreans and Lockheed are probably dreaming up the same manufacturing arrangement in order to buyrecruit the support of influential Congressman.

Today’s Flightglobal has an excellent summary analysis (with a lot of pretty pictures) of the upcoming battle:

Richard Aboulafia, vice-president of analysis at Teal Group, calls the KAI/Lockheed T-50 Golden Eagle the “most capable” option – but also probably the most expensive to buy and operate. Lockheed declines to discuss prices, but Aboulafia estimates the T-50’s flyaway cost will be $26 million per aircraft.

[...]

The T-50, which has been in service since the mid-2000s, can reach Mach 1.5 and pull 8g, Lockheed says. The type’s single General Electric F404 engine also has an afterburner. “If the [USAF] has the budget, and they want [pilots] to [transition] easily into an F-22 or F-35, the T-50 is the choice,” says Aboulafia.

The BAE/Northrop Hawk option is the cheapest at an estimated $21 million per, but they are clearly the dark horse in this fight.  The Alenia Aermacchi option is in the middle at an estimated $24 million per.

Aboulafia says Alenia Aermacchi’s T-100 – a derivative of its M-346 trainer – holds the middle ground. The aircraft are “very modern”, have “great flying characteristics” and will likely cost about $24 million each, he estimates. The M-346 (below) is powered by two Honeywell F124-200 turbofans, can pull 8g and reach 590kt at 5,000ft (1,520m), according to Alenia Aermacchi.

[...]

“It’s a good compromise,” says Aboulafia of the T-100. “The market has spoken to that. Israel and Singapore [are] two of the most prestigious militaries around.”

Here is a blog with an interesting (but technical) specification comparison between the two jets.

It will be an interesting, hard fought battle between the two.  I am not normally a betting man, but looking at the selection process I would say that the M-346 Master has the edge if a pure trainer is what you are looking for.  Key U.S. allies with similar air power doctrines have the M-346 or have it on order (Singapore, Poland and Israel).  Out of all the KAI wins, only Indonesia has selected the T-50 as a pure trainer.  The procurement history would favor the M-346 and imply that the T-50 a bit of an underdog.  However, as it often happens, the USAF may want the “Cadillac” option and if so, then that would give the T-50 the edge.

USAF%20T-50.jpg

(Photo credit: Flightglobal)

Lockheed says Korea officially selecting the F-35

In a drawn out courtship affair with more twists and turns than Luke and Laura, Ross and Rachel, or even 길라임 and 김주원, it looks like Korea has finally pulled the trigger on officially picking a winner for their F-X (phase 3) bid.  The results were a bit of a forgone conclusion after the F-15SE was rejected last year, but (drum roll, please) the ROK has selected Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightening II.

According to a Lockheed’s press release:

 The Republic of Korea has formally announced its decision to procure the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft for its F-X fighter acquisition program.

[...]

Following a comprehensive evaluation process for their F-X program, the Republic of Korea becomes the third Foreign Military Sales country to procure the F-35, joining Israel and Japan who selected the F-35A in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

My thoughts?  Personally, I am not too enthusiastic regarding the F-35.  Much of the independent press has been bad.  The Aussies don’t think it’s all that stealthy.  The think tank Rand Corporation doesn’t think it’s all that maneuverable and is underpowered to boot.  The Australians needed a lot of convincing and are still not completely on board yet.  The Canadians are wavering.  Even an American general made the amazing admission that the F-35 might not be all that useful without an F-22 riding shotgun (i.e. watching its “6”) for it.

Well, the Korean government originally wanted the F-15SE.  It was the Korean air force that insisted on the F-35 (particularly a few dodgy ex-generals).

The good news is that the ROK’s purchase should make unit costs lower (via “economies of scale”) for the U.S. and her participating allies.  Lockheed will apparently provide some (potentially restricted?) unspecified technical help for the development of the KF-X.  I’m sure there are plenty of people in Ft. Worth, Texas happy with the order, not to mention Lockheed shareholders.

Uncle Sugar set to play schoolyard monitor at a side-meeting at the Hague

to quote from a comment by the commenter Wedge , Obama has persuaded president Park to hold a three way summit during the tea breaks of the Nuclear Security Summit in the city of the Hague next week.

Here is the BBC article in English and here is the link to a Segye Ilbo news article (in Korean) after the announcement was made. Interestingly, the Segye Ilbo’s take on the fact that the official announcement came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and not directly from the Blue House, could be due to Park trying to “downplay” the event. It’s understandable, if I had been on the world news media saying “I won’t I won’t I won’t (meet him) ” I would feel a little peevish at saying “aw alright then I will.”

Park’s meant to have softened up a bit within the last few days since Abe’s announced not to revise the Kono statement. He’s a funny one as well – “I might I might I might (revise it)”- “oh alright then I won’t.”

That’s why we still need Uncle Sugar.

Interestingly, when I did a quick news search in English at the start of writing this post, the top news link hits were the Chinese sources. They are obviously very interested to snoop at what’s being said at this water cooler gathering behind their backs.
North Korea, *should be* too as it probably concerns them as well, but the way they fit in the picture in my head is still the big fat slow-witted kid playing by himself in the corner, killing ants with a stick.. oblivious to all of this..

Lately, Japan has been seen talking to this fat slow kid more so than usual. The primary topic they want to bring up is the Japanese abductees as usual, but I think it might just be because they were getting the silent treatment from the fat kid’s sister, that they “might as well talk with the dim brother, see if they get anywhere”.
The very strange relationship between Japan and North Korea, Continue reading

American troopers in “Real Men”

As you all know every healthy Korean male is suppose to serve a two year stint in the armed forces.  It ain’t easy and it ain’t relished by most Korean men.  However, some time after their service, many Korean men develop strangely nostalgic memories of their service.  The Korean has a good series on this here and here.

Capitalizing on this phenomenon is MBC’s reality show “Real Men” where older Korean actors relive their days in the military for the benefit of their television audiences.  Surprisingly, the show has become popular with women who want to know a little bit of what their men had gone through.

Any ways, now “Real Men” has started to have troops from the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division interact with the Korean stars.  The American troopers, for example, don’t seem to mind eating Korean food.  What’s the first thought that runs across the Koreans’ minds when they see the non-Korean faces?  “Gosh, my English sucks.”  A surprising number of the American troops knew some Korean.  The cross cultural exchange is “interesting,” to say the least.

‘진짜 사나이’ 샘 해밍턴 “250원 바나나라떼 정말 맛있어” 극찬

(Photo credit edaily)

Influence peddling in Virginia ‘East Sea’ debate?

Read the comments made by Sonagi and King Baeksu in this thread on ROKDrop.

Personally, I think the effort to promote the use of the term “East Sea” overseas is a bit silly and probably a waste of resources better spent on more important issues like the “Comfort Women.” That said, I find the Japanese reaction—essentially, threatening economic cooperation with the Commonwealth of Virginia—also interesting, since I’m often assured that Japan is the mature party here.

And say what you will about Koreans and Korean-Americans bringing their “old country” hangups to the United States, but it’s not a new phenomenon:

The furor is relatively over very low stakes. After all, it’s about adding the label East Sea next to Sea of Japan on maps, not even replacing it. But it serves as a symbol of the new ethnic politics in the United States. For decades, politicians appealing for votes from ethnic communities had to take certain stands on foreign policy issues. Every politician in Massachusetts would be adamantly against British policy in Northern Ireland, every elected official on Long Island would ardently support the State of Israel and California politicos would do their utmost to appropriately commemorate the Armenian Genocide. This is simply a new variation on that old pattern and marks the increasing importance of Asian-American voters in electoral politics.

Korean company building tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi

Well, Angelenos, I hope you like your supertall skyscrapers Korean:

The Hanjin Group of South Korea, better known to Americans through its flagship subsidiary Korean Air Lines, is in the process of building the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. It’s going up right in the heart of downtown Los Angeles — the sort of project bound to stir conversation and controversy.

And yet there’s no controversy and little conversation. No one is screaming that the Koreans are buying up America. No one is complaining about how the Wilshire Grand Hotel has been demolished to make way for a skyscraper. If you read the online comments to the handful of news articles on the project, Angelenos say they welcome the shiny glass and steel New Wilshire Grand.

The planned building is being designed by AC Martin Partners—see the project page (with pretty pictures) here. It will stand 73 stories, and in true Korean style, a historic building was demolished to make way for it. It will be illuminated at night with LEDs, too.

Anyway, back to the original story. So just why is it that nobody is taking a sledgehammer to a Samsung Galaxy on the Capitol steps?

One obvious answer is that South Korea, unlike Japan, was never an American enemy. The less obvious answer is that South Korea, despite its achievements and longstanding connections to America, has been slow to penetrate the U.S. consciousness.

That’s changing, however, as the rest of the piece illustrates.

For what it’s worth, the man leading the project, Hanjin Group chairman Cho Yang-ho, should consider himself lucky to be alive:

On a honeymoon trip to Southern California in 1974, Yang-ho Cho and his new bride drove into downtown Los Angeles only to get lost among the dark, empty industrial buildings and shuttered shops.

Cho remembers he could find no one on the streets to ask for directions to his hotel.

Harrowing stuff.

BTW, just in case anyone asks, the first Korean building to make use of a glass curtain wall was the UNESCO Building in Myeong-dong in 1968. So don’t complain you weren’t told.

This and that regarding USFK cost-sharing agreement

The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) announced today that it has started a preliminary investigation to see if the Korean moneys paid for the upkeep of USFK are being used properly:

The probe is taking place while the South Korean government is waiting for parliamentary approval of its agreement to pay 920 billion won (US$866 million) for U.S. troops this year, a 5.8 percent increase from the previous year.

The move comes after a left-leaning civic group, Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea, in October requested a probe into the fund use after data showed that the U.S. is sitting on more than 1 trillion won of unspent defense funds paid by Seoul.

The investigation is to mainly focus on whether there was any attempt to evade taxes on interest from unspent cash paid by Seoul, according to officials.

Yes, that would be this Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea, led in part by that Kang Jeong-koo and a priest best known for illegally visiting North Korea. You’ll also recall that the lawmaker who’d been spearheading allegations of USFK “cash-hoarding” was none other than Rep. Lee Seok-ki.

Yes, that Lee Seok-ki.

As GI Korea said way back when:

[T]he money is likely being stockpiled in anticipation of whenever the big move to Camp Humphreys takes place. Moving all the servicemembers from Yongsan and the 2nd Infantry Division to Camp Humphreys is not going to be cheap. However, if you are a North Korean spy looking to create discord between the Korean public and the US military this is a great issue to demagogue.

Still, the fact that the BAI has decided to launch a preliminary investigation suggests that the public is insufficiently satisfied with USFK transparency. The recent cost-sharing agreement includes mechanisms to boost transparency, but the DP is promising to take a tough look at the agreement when it goes to the National Assembly for approval. You can read more about the “blowback” here.

It’s important to realize that it’s not just allegedly pro-North Korean elements raising the issue of transparency. The reliably pro-American Chosun Ilbo warns in an editorial:

Saddled with a huge fiscal deficit, the U.S. is trying to cut spending while focusing its strategy in Asia on Japan. If South Korea resists any calls to take on a greater share of the cost at a time like this, it may end up sidelined in policies involving Northeast Asian security and North Korea. It must therefore approach the issue from a diplomatic rather than fiscal perspective.

But an important point is whether there will be increased transparency in how the money is being spent. Washington has agreed to provide more information, but it remains to be seen just how much, since there is no legally binding clause in the agreement to ensure this.

The U.S. did not spend around W710 billion it received from South Korea as part of upkeep, but Seoul had no idea of this for some time. If this happens again, the South Korean public will only become more opposed to any rise in Seoul’s share of the cost. Both the U.S. and South Korea must be careful not to let the cost issue damage their alliance.

The likewise reliably pro-American Dong-A Ilbo also cites transparency concerns, and adds a demand that now that Korea is paying more to maintain USFK, the United States should make concessions on other security-related issues, by which it means Washington should agree to delay the transfer of wartime operational command to the second coming of Christ and lift restrictions on Korean nuclear development:

The two countries have yet to hold negotiations over revision to the bilateral nuclear treaty and another postponement of the transfer of wartime operational control. On the nuclear talks, the two sides delayed the deadline by two years to 2016, but have yet to narrow major differences despite nine rounds of talks. The planned transfer of wartime operational control is scheduled in December 2015, but it is uncertain whether the transfer will be postponed again. How negotiations over these issues are concluded will determine not only Korea’s security but also the nation’s nuclear technology development and the future of export. Since Korea has made concessions in the talks over defense cost sharing, the U.S. should make sincere efforts to resolve the remaining issues.

The Hankyoreh, meanwhile, didn’t find much to celebrate at all. I do think its call for an itemized standard like Japan is worth considering, though:

The talks basically left in place the current framework, leaving the US with discretionary authority on how to spend the money once a total amount is agreed on. Many had called for a system more along the lines of the Japanese one, where spending is decided on an item-by-item basis as needed. It would have been worth the headaches to find a way of adopting an itemized standard while working to minimize the financial costs. It’s also unfortunate that they failed to produce any real answers on how to use the 1,352.3 billion won in previous defense contributions that haven’t been used.

Of course, if we end up itemizing like Japan, we might want to demand Korea start paying like Japan, too. Even under the most recently signed agreement, Korea is paying less than 50% of USFK’s upkeep costs. Japan, I believe, pays something in the neighborhood of 70% (please correct me if I’m wrong here), and according to the Chosun Ilbo editorial linked above, Tokyo was asking Washington to make Seoul pay more in accordance with its much-improved economic power.

Late Pres. Roh ‘anti-American, crazy': Bob Gates

In his recently published memorir, former SecDef Bob Gates paints an unflattering picture of late Korea President Roh Moo-hyun:

Gates recalls a November 2007 meeting in Seoul with the liberal-minded president, whose diplomatic and security policy is still being debated.

He calls Roh “anti-American and probably a little crazy.” Roh was quoted as telling Gates that “the biggest security threats in Asia were the United States and Japan.”

I must confess it’s nice to see Roh was telling both the Americans and North Koreans the same thing. Important to stay on message, you know.

Unsurprisingly, Gates liked working with Lee Myung-bak, more.

You’ll recall Roh’s attitudes led him to get pwned by Gate’s predecessor.

Anyway, perhaps more interesting was Gates’s claim that President Lee and Company really wanted to lay the smack down on North Korea following the 2011 shelling of Yeonpyeong-do, but the United States leaned on Seoul to limit its retaliation:

“South Korea’s original plans for retaliation were, we thought, disproportionately aggressive, involving both aircraft and artillery,” Gates wrote in his memoir.

“We were worried the exchanges could escalate dangerously,” he added.

Over the next few days, Gates said he, US President Barack Obama and then secretary of state Hillary Clinton had numerous telephone calls with their South Korean counterparts in an effort to calm things down.

“Ultimately, South Korea simply returned artillery fire on the location of the North Koreans’ batteries that had started the whole affair,” he said.

The Korean government is declining to comment on this, but they probably don’t need to. After all, this isn’t the first time a former US official has made such a claim.

Chosun Ilbo sorta blames US for Abe’s asshattery

Nobody will accuse the Chosun Ilbo of being instinctively anti-American, but in this morning’s editorial they call on the United States to do something about Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Interestingly enough, the editorial begins by citing a recent NYT and WaPo editorials criticizing Abe’s visit to Yasukuni (Marmot’s Note: I get the feeling the Chosun didn’t read the entire NYT editorial).

Then, however, the Chosun says Abe is behaving like he is because he thinks he’s got the United States behind him. The United States wants to use Japan to fill in the gap resulting from lower US defense expenditures. Abe knows this, and is spouting off with little concern about pissing off Washington. US criticism of Abe’s provocations have been little or none, while Washington has shown active support for Abe’s push to remilitarize Japan under the name of collective defense. This American attitude, says the Chosun, has brought about Abe’s miscalculations.

The Chosun wonders why the United States treats Abe’s historical distortions—and his denial of Japan’s wars as wars of aggression in particular—as somebody’s else’s problem when its an attack on the legitimacy of the sacrifices made by Americans killed in the Pacific War (note to Chosun Ilbo: in our defense, we did nuke two Japanese cities, which tends to release a great deal of han). If Washington had issued a strong warning to Abe, he would never have engaged in behavior that has essentially wiped out the historical reflection Japan had made so far. Meanwhile, Washington is telling Korea that it must deal with security issues and historical issues separately.

The Chosun Ilbo quotes the New York Times: “Japan’s military adventures are only possible with American support; the United States needs to make it clear that Mr. Abe’s agenda is not in the region’s interest. Surely what is needed in Asia is trust among states, and his actions undermine that trust” (Marmot’s Note: I think they skipped over the entire middle part criticizing President Park Geun-hye’s refusal to meet Abe as giving him the freedom to visit Yasukuni). Anyway, the Chosun warns that unless the United States gets Abe to apologize for the shrine visit and promise not to do it again, cracks will emerge in US strategy in Asia. Japanese money won’t be able to mend the harm done to the United States in the region by the wounds left in Korean hearts.

The Chosun notes that US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a statement on Dec 28 welcoming the decision by Okinawa Prefecture to accept the Futenma relocation plan, saying the continuous partnership between the United States and Japan would strengthen. This came just a day after a State Department spokesperson issued a statement of regret over the Yasukuni visit. The Chosun thinks maybe Abe though he could pacify American protests to the shrine visit with this “gift,” and that we’ll soon learn whether he was right.

The Chosun concludes by warning US President Barack Obama, who’s visiting Japan in April, that without a fundamental shift in Japan’s attitude, the United States will find it difficult to get its new Asia strategy off the ground.

Marmot’s Note: Look, I think I’ve made it pretty clear I think Shinzo Abe’s a jerk. And yeah, I think there needs to be diplomatic consequences to some of his antics, including the recent visit to Yasukuni. As a friend, the United States needs to sit Abe down and explain to him in no uncertain terms that being a dick won’t help him achieve the goals that both he and the Americans want.

That said, it’s probably in everybody’s best interest—the Americans, the Koreans and the Japanese—to compartmentalize a bit here. Countries do this all the time. Turkey enjoys security cooperation with a large number of countries—including Korea, BTW—despite Turkey being pretty unapologetic about the Armenian genocide. As far as I know, America’s Middle Eastern allies don’t make security cooperation contingent on accepting the Arab view of the Crusades (Marmot’s Note: which, as everyone knows, were a defensive war).

For what it’s worth, I thought the US State Department statement was rather strong. Still, there’s only so loud the United States can get here. Japan’s an important US ally, and as I said in the previous paragraph, it’s hardly the only US ally with a questionable interpretation of history. Japan’s World War II history gives the United States a bit more latitude to speak, but even that has limits—interpreting one’s history is, after all, largely an internal matter. Mind you, I’m inclined to agree that Japan’s historical distortions are an insult to American veterans of World War II, but Japan is not the only country to insult US veterans of the Pacific War with bullshit interpretations of wartime atrocities (see also here).

Oh, for Christ’s sake people, it’s Joe Biden!

Uncle Joe apparently pissed off some folk during his visit to Korea:

In particular, his words of warning against betting against the United States during a meeting with President Park Geun-hye last Friday prompted several domestic media outlets to criticize him, interpreting them as a check of China and Korea’s increasing economic and political dependence on the world’s most populous nation.

So, what exactly did Biden say this time?

“I want to make one thing absolutely clear. President Obama’s decision to rebalance the Pacific Basin is not in question. The United States never says anything it does not do. Let me say that again. The United States never says anything it does not do,” he said.

“As I said in my visits thus far in the region, it has never been a good bet to bet against America. It has never been a good bet to bet against America. And America is going to continue to place its bet on South Korea.”

It’s the “betting” part that has rubbed folk the wrong way as it came off as Biden coercing President Park to support the United States over China. Leading the complaints is—sit down for this—Korea’s opposition Democratic Party, which complained that if Biden’s intent was to threaten, his comments would be regarded as the “rudest comment in the history of summit diplomacy between the two countries” since George W. Bush referred to Kim Dae-jung as “this man.”

Chief among the complainers was DP chief Kim Han-gil, who likened Biden to a “drunken uncle.”

OK, that was pretty funny.

He also said Biden showed not even a minimum of respect in dealing with the president of a host nation. Ever the optimist, I prefer to see this as a positive thing—at least Kim acknowledged Park is the president, which is more that we can say for others in his party. Nor did allude to Park getting assassinated, which again, is more than we can say for others in his party.

Kim also didn’t like Biden grasping Park’s hand and leading her around—no, not because the whole White Male/Asian Female thing reminds of him of all those evil English teachers, but rather because he took it as the Veep showing off American power.

Well, at least the Dong-A Ilbo’s Choe Yeong-ae got it—it’s just Joe being Joe. And besides—with Park being single, at least Biden didn’t ask her if her husband liked her working full time.

photo credit: Barack Obama via photopin cc

The Korean dude who heckled President Obama and Korea’s visa waiver status

By now, most American readers will probably be familiar with Ju Hong, the Korean guy who heckled President Obama during—ironically enough—an immigration rally.

Hong has a history of, depending on how you look at it, gutsy political activism or outrageously mocking the people’s laws on immigration.

I didn’t think much about the incident at the time, other than being somewhat impressed by Obama’s handling of the incident and, likewise, somewhat perplexed as to why Hong and his family weren’t immediately placed on a plane back to Korea where he can do his two year’s military service like every other Korean male in his age cohort—I’m sure the ROK military has plenty of need for good English speakers.

Then I read an interview Hong gave with Yonhap News, where he calls immigration reform an “important matter for Korean-Americans and a human rights issue.” But more interestingly, he claims that one in seven Korean immigrants to the United States is undocumented.

The interview is worth reading, as it not only explains how Hong’s family ended up in Migukistan, but it’s also fun to compare its tone with the one Yonhap would have likely adopted had this been Ahmed the Illegal Bangladeshi Factory Worker from Ansan heckling President Park Geun-hye during a presidential speech.

At National Review, Mark Krikorian discusses the problem Hong’s case presents to immigration law enforcement—his family entered the country legally enough, but simply overstayed their visas. And as Hong himself told Yonhap, there are apparently a lot of Koreans doing this:

The salient fact here for immigration policy is that he came with his family on a tourist visa, and never left. Visa overstayers are believed to represent between a third and a half of the 12 million illegal aliens in the United States — and with improvements in border enforcement it’s possible the majority of new illegal aliens are overstayers. That translates to 4 to 6 million liars, people who swore they’d leave when their visit was over but didn’t, something at least as contemptible as sneaking into someone else’s country. Hong came as a child, so he wasn’t doing the lying, but he’s no more entitled to stay than the child of someone who lied on a mortgage application and later lost his home.

There are also more Korean illegal aliens than you might think. For instance, nearly 7,000 South Korean illegal aliens have been amnestied by Obama’s unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (a.k.a. the administrative Dream Act) through the end of August, making it the No. 5 country after Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Krikorian goes on to note that the problem—at least in Korea’s case—is made worse by the fact that Korea is included in the American visa waiver program:

Exacerbating this problem with regard to South Korea and other countries is the Visa Waiver Program. As the name suggests, people from the 37 countries on the list don’t have to get visas for short tourist or business trips. Only those countries whose citizens are very unlikely to overstay are supposed to be included in the program. Unfortunately, the main force expanding the list of participating countries has been lobbying pressure from the travel industry and foreign governments. South Korea was added in 2008 and Greece — Greece — in 2010. This has been a significant driver of illegal immigration; the GAO reported earlier this year that, of a very large sample of apparent overstays, nearly half were people who entered under the Visa Waiver Program.

To be honest, as far as nations of origin for illegal aliens go, you could do a lot worse than Korea, but still, something appears to be broken. Ultimately, it’s up to the United States to enforce its own immigration laws, but I wonder if perhaps there’s room for cooperation with Korean authorities to ensure Korean tourists don’t get lost on their visits, lest this become a bilateral diplomatic issue. You know, much in the way the Korean Foreign Ministry stepped in when a certain, ahem, segment of the Korean community in Australia became an issue.

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