Well, I’ve seen Beijing do a lot of hideous, thuggish, and arrogant things over the last year, but this one has got to be the most confounding on so many levels. China has sent a 72 year-old South Korean prisoner of war back to North Korea after he escaped his fifty-year captivity. And South Korea’s reaction? It has “expressed regret.”
I’m apoplectic. This guy was held in North Korea in direct violation of the peace treaty for all those years of hard labor, starvation, separation from his family . . . wondering if his kids knew he was alive . . . wondering whether his wife had remarried . . . I mean, can you imagine what fifty years of that could have been like? And the South expresses regret? This is a second direct violation of the peace treaty, which required China to send this guy back to South Korea to live out whatever years he had left catching up for all those years in hell. And now, he’s almost certainly headed for a firing squad. Did Roh Moo-Hyun lose his balls in a farging industrial accident?
The first lesson I take from this? All that talk of Korean patriotism is just that–talk, compensated for with the cheap substitute of racism (must read!). There isn’t a single calorie of loyalty to coherent principle on its label, which is why it has so effortlessly betrayed the people of North Korea while the rest of the world gasps in horror at their plight. The meaning of this is that if you fight for Korea–whether you’re American or Korean–the people of South Korea will most assuredly place no value whatsoever on you or you sacrifice. You are a pawn. My appreciation from the Republic of Korea consisted of an “official gift” every year–a pen, a plaque, or a souvenir mask. I would have preferred it if someone there had occasionally thanked me, or if Koreans would show half the outrage about Han Man-Taek that they display over Korean girls dating black guys (or, for that matter, loving, stable, happy marriages between Korean women and foreign men). I can only conclude that Korea today stands for prejudices without values. No wonder people dodge the draft. No wonder people violate immigration laws to have their babies in Los Angeles.
People understand what they dare not say: Warning: do not fight for this country. It stands for nothing and will betray you.
UPDATE: This from the Korea Times:
According to the Ministry of National Defense, there are more than 1,180 South Korean POWs in the North, with about 500 of them now believed to have died and some 179 still classified missing in action.
The sensitive issue has never been high on the inter-Korean agenda, with the South Korean government pushing for reconciliation with the North. North Korea maintains that it has already returned all POWs.
UPDATE II: Seemingly, the South Korean Army scarcely knows what side it’s on. Not a shock to me. Early in my tour, I heard a KATUSA make himself a very ineffective witness by talking about the “colonialism” of most American NCOs. I was always fastidious about saluting ROK officers, but around 2000, I noticed some of the Korean soldiers wouldn’t salute me. I reported one of them, who refused to salute even after I asked him point-blank in Korean. His commander came to my office to apologize(!), which I certainly appreciated.
Yes, I have doubts about whether we could trust them with our flanks in a war.
UPDATE III: Seafood . . . now that’s worth fighting for!
I’m interested in the Koreans’ on-the-street reaction to the repatriation of Private Han. My dry cleaner, a Korean immigrant and not a very political person normally, was livid about this. He’s ashamed of his home country.