My Testimony at the House International Relations Committee

[Update: For some strange reason, the document was coming up as a previous, incomplete draft. Sorry for any who saw that one; you should be able to see the final version now.]

[Update 1/2007:   The complete hearing transcript is now online, including my verbal testimony, written statement, and photographic exhibits, at pages 59-94 (pdf).  Other witnesses that day were Amb. Chris Hill, Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless, and Korea experts  Balbina Hwang and Gordon Flake.]

Well, I can’t thank Rep. Henry Hyde’s staff enough for believing that a fire-eater with high-speed internet access qualifies as an expert competent to testify before a committee of Congress. You have to know that all is not well in the alliance when that can happen, although I really don’t know who’s pretending that all is well these days. My testimony mainly covered anti-Americanism, SOFA and criminal jurisdiction stuff, and those pictures that I will keep flogging until there’s no longer a reason to do so. I guess some bombs need to be thrown (here’s an extra reminder to read our disclaimer). Here’s my statement, which is part of the hearing record. I spent four days writing it, so I sure hope someone reads it.


My observations, below:

Rep. James Leach remarked that he’s never introduced a “webmaster,” not a title I’d meant to claim for a group blog where Richardson does all the hard technical work and I mostly observe with dumbfounded amazement. Really, it was an honor. I ended up on the same panel as two legit experts — L. Gordon Flake, who will be giving us an interview soon, and Balbina Hwang, who is still at Heritage until she becomes the primary assistant to Amb. Christopher Hill. Chuck Downs was also there, and I thanked him in person for talking with us. I ended up having a good talk with Rep. Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, who was kind of mean to two of the witnesses (he asked, I answered, and he feels bad about it) but grasps the nature of the North Korean threat — nukes on E-bay. The pictures I showed obviously had some impact on him; he called them “atrocities” and proceeded to ask Gordon Flake and Balbina Hwang why shouldn’t just pull all of our troops out. Richardson would have been proud of me later; I talked about the importance of preventing an arms race between South Korea and Japan. I think he sees the basis to keep air forces there, for now, at least.

Some random observations:

  • One thing I learned: five minutes goes much faster than it does during a closing argument, and I’m sorry I went over time.
  • I’ve already concluded that the FTA is dead, but it’s extra dead if the Democrats get control of the House. Either it passes before the new Congress is sworn in, or it won’t pass.
  • Richard Lawless is still not happy with the Korean contribution to cost-sharing. I sensed a veiled threat to take more units out of USFK if they don’t up their contribution. He said that we’d cut the fat and the muscle, and that we’re cutting bone now.
  • Lawless and Hill otherwise sounded pollyannish: The alliance? Why, couldn’t be better! Not everyone gets to be Lee Jong-Seok….
  • Leach, Rep. Tom Lantos, and Rep. Gary Ackerman were very opposed to re-imposing sanctions on North Korea; Hill had a pretty good response to that: we only lifted them to reward North Korea for its missile moratorium. But the Administration loses momentum by waiting to impose them. It’s time to drop the other shoe.
  • There are times when Lantos seems more conservative than Leach.
  • Rep. Dana Rohrabacher shaves with a blowtorch. I can’t possibly imagine what it must be like to pick that guy’s daughter up for a date. His views on Kim Jong Il and the South Koreans are probably in line with mine, but I disagree with him on food aid. I yield to none in my desire to see Kim Jong Il swing from a lamppost, and starving people have a very bad track record for organizing and executing such things. I don’t want to punish starving people, but we have a fresh reminder of why we need to keep a watchful eye on where the aid goes. That requires multilateral pressure, and guess what? South Korea isn’t helping.
  • Rep. Diane Watson made a good impression.
  • This was Hyde’s final hearing as Chairman, and you could feel the love. He told Rep. Lantos what a fine Secretary of State he would make … once he changes parties.
  • Richard Lawless stepped on my foot. Not really sure if that’s interesting to anyone, but hey ….



  1. There are times when Lantos seems more conservative than Leach.

    I was a Leach constituent for four years. He represents a very leftist district. He is a “liberal” Republican. He is very intelligent, experienced and thoughtful, but is liberal nonetheless.

  2. The web logs have come of age. You guys have earned the recognition. No more back of da bus to the NYT or WAPO or LAT.

  3. Very interesting — look forward hearing more about the hearing….
    Incidentally, was in DC last week, interviewed by Lew King on topic of, yes, Korea, airing DC cable Channel 22 Friday, Sept. 29, 5.30; Channel 32 Friday and same channel, Sunday, Oct. 1, 6.30 pm; Channel 26 1.30 am Sunday. That encompasses all Washington PBS stations. Also: WMPT, Channel 22, in Maryland (airs Fridays, 5:30 p.m., before “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer”), WETA, Channel 26, Sundays, 1 a.m.

  4. Younger Koreans are far more likely to espouse anti-American views than their elders, which means that the alliance faces a demographic deadline.

    A quibble; I think that means that the alliance may have such a deadline. As people age they become more conservative, and in South Korea’s case I believe they become more realistic about what’s fair in regard to the U.S.

    The Korean government and ruling party members are exacerbating anti-Americanism with words and actions that sometimes seem calculated to have precisely that effect. At other times, they seem to be made with reckless disregard for their effect on bilateral relations. The Korean government has abandoned mature, quiet diplomacy and lodges its disagreements with the United States in the newspapers.

    I believe that the South Korean government’s role in the rise and degree of anti-Americanism since Kim Dae-jung has been central, particularly since the lead-up to the June 2000 North-South summit.

    We must maintain our sense of perspective. We do have interests in Northeast Asia, and our response should be neither an emotional overreaction nor a cynical abandonment of our values, or our sons and daughters.


    But times have changed in Korea, and the political threat to our interests now exceeds the military threat. . . On the other hand, our air and naval forces in Korea allow us to project power in the region, conduct humanitarian relief operations when the North Korean regime falls, and sufficiently compliment the militaries of our allies to forestall and arms race between them.

    If we are to remain in Korea, the Korean government must help us explain why.

    While the nature of the North Korean threat has changed, I’m not sure that addressing or explaining it in explicit terms, at least publicly, is a good idea. Why? As you know, the primary reason I see for maintaining USFK is to retard or prevent a robust NE Asian arms race. Publicly stating, in an officla way, what is known but not politically correct – that South Korea is (and would be to a much greater extent w/o USFK) paranoid about potential Japanese and Chinese power plays – probably wouldn’t be the preferable course to take.

    As the recent threat to withdrawal Air Force assets if a suitable bombing range was not delivered within a month shows, the right approach can yield the desired results.

    In the end we have to decide what’s more important; giving anti-American South Korean’s what they deserve, or preserving the six decades of peace that our presence has fostered. I vote for the latter every single time.

  5. Wow! Quite a paper.

    Question: Were you able to present the entire document, or was it written into the record?

    Other, hopefully relevant, comments:

    I wonder what the reaction of the members of the House committee would have been if they were also presented with:

    1) The video of the large American flags being shredded in front of Seoul City Hall by the crowds in December 2002 (a still photo of which appeared at your website ( Watching the video while the flags are being ripped apart was, for me, a memorable experience.

    2) The lyrics, music and graphics associated with that ever-famous ditty penned by the students of Seoul National University: ‘F—-ing USA’ (I got to watch this, from the ‘front row’, as the opening act of the main left wing demonstration in downtown Seoul on Liberation Day 2003 … also a ‘memorable experience’. At that same time, NOWHERE in the major English-language daily newspapers in Korea was it mentioned, or, for that matter, even hinted at, that the US actually had anything to do with the liberation of Korea.)

    3) The lyrics of the catchy popular political song: ‘Throw the bastards (US) out’

    4) The polls that were taken by, I believe, the Joong-Ang Ilbo that discussed the various rationales behind the outbreak of the Korean War (interestingly, over 3% of the respondents claimed that South Korea invaded North Korea … and this percentage appears to be growing).

    5) The latest editorial in the Korean Times: ‘Time to Come Home – No More Reasons to Remain in Iraq’, which should have been titled: ‘Hey, what’s in it for Korea?’ (

  6. Great job Joshua, hopefully the law makers learned more about the complex situation on the Korean peninsula which involves more than just Kim Jong-il wanting shoot missiles and develop nukes.

    I think another good incident you missed briefing though was the vandalization of the UN Cemetery in Pusan.

  7. Would you be able to advise all concerned of a website where the documents associated with these hearings might be found?

  8. I am a Korean American and while not totally shocked by your report, I am, nevertheless, appalled and ashamed of the Korean justice system. I never understood the need for SOFA and now I am glad that at least it exists even if it is insuffcient for the US army personnel.

  9. Thank you for this excellent work: focused, factual, and relentless. I hope never to be prosecuted by you! This is a very powerful document that deserves a wide reading. Although I understand you were addressing Americans, is it possible that this document, if accurately translated into Korean, might spark a worthwhile discussion among citizens of the ROK? Or has the estrangement gone so far that they don’t care anymore what Americans perceive?

  10. That was a tour de force – and by a private citizen in his spare time with no staff to support him. He even cites the Marmot, which may lead to some awkward “booby moments” for Congressional staff. ;-D

  11. Wow, you certainly distilled a lot of information down into a few pages.

    After reading your paper (I read the whole thing), I sure hope I never end up on the wrong side of a dispute in Korea—despite whatever my best attempts at avoiding one might be!

  12. Here is the web address where this document, as well as others can be found.
    (this should work, but otherwise just run a search using “The U.S. House of Representatives Web Sites
    Search Result” then do a seperate search for “Korea” within the site…

    I was able to download your entire document, btw, and I read it all the way through with great interest. I have been in Korea since June 10, 2002, and have followed all of the events you mentioned avidly. My son was also stationed in Dongducheon for a year as part of the 2nd ID, leaving Korea just last month, so I have more than a vested interest in seeing these kids go home…

  13. Thank you for informing Congress on the situation over here. I have downloaded and read the entire document, and was amazed by the amount of detailed information you were able to pull together.

  14. Thanks for this. Great piece of work and very informative. I just hope the people it is supposed to reach have the balls to do something about it instead of the usual bipartisain ineptitude.

  15. A.E. Clark,

    I think I can answer your last question.

    Korean society as a whole, and individual Koreans that make it up, still care greatly about how they are perceived abroad.

    But, something like this would not do much if translated into Korean. It would need to be something in the press that Koreans would see has been broadly viewed by Americans (whether we paid much attention to it or not). A single article in the New York Times on anti-US attitudes can have a big splash in Korea, but even that splash has a short shelf life.

  16. Above all, Koreans who seek to preserve the alliance must eschew censorship and defend the U.S.-Korea relationship in the area of ideas, with scholarship, reason, and debate.

    This has been the only thing that should save the allaince for as long as I’ve been watching, but it is probably too late unless the US is willing to continue being South Korea’s bitch for another decade.

    We can point to the changing attitude toward North Korea as the key to current anti-US problems, but I think that misses the mark.

    If South Korean society had not grown so accustomed to basing their sense of nationalism in large part on viewing the US in Korea as a negative force and themselves as helpless victims with no choice but to “endure”, the change in North Korea’s strength and its willingness to let South Korea make friends with it would not have automatically caused the Sunshine Policy to unleash anti-Amerianism.

    The anti-US culture was already firmly planted before 1998. The Sunshine Policy and especially the 2000 Summit simply convinced more Koreans there was little danger in putting it on display.

  17. Forgive me for commenting as I read the text, but I am too busy and don’t know when I’ll be able to come back to the blogs again…

    Anyway, on the part about the KTU video:

    I would have named my first son (or daughter) “Joshua” if you had played clips from the video……

    I’m still unhappy with how little attention the K-blogsphere paid to that vile thing.

  18. On the kidnapping of Murphy, when the Korean police later explained why they had let the deadline to formally charge him with assault pass, they said it was clear Mr. Suh had assaulted him first.

    No reason was given for why such a conclusion did not lead to charges being filed against Suh…..

  19. Enjoyed the report. Very thorough and comprehensive. As an American though, I can’t help but think that many Americans living in the US today would also be considered “Anti-American” by many of these same standards. To some degree, radical elements here in the US provide talking points for these radicals overseas. For example, many on the Left in the US will point to DPRK missile-testing as a failure of US diplomacy. We should bilaterally negotiate with the DPRK, etc. (Never mind that they take the exact opposite stand on Iraq.) Many radicals in the ROK and, indeed, the DPRK itself, claim the exact same thing. Is there growing anti-Americanism in America too?

  20. Knickerbocker, There is certainly anti-Americanism in America, although I think the demographics and pathologies are probably different.

    The main concern of my testimony isn’t really anti-Americanism itself, but (1) the South Korean government’s tendency to promote and exploit it, and (2) the South Korean government’s failure to keep sentiment from spilling over to violence, discrimination, and other things that go beyond the scope of free expression.

  21. I’m (re)reading this long after it was first posted. I have long thought that Richardson in particular articulates quite well exactly why a continued US presence in the ROK is conducive for American interests and values.

    I wonder, Joshua, how your testimony might be different (if at all) were it given today, in light of the election of a much more openly pro-US president, widespread repudiation of Roh and his ilk, and Chinese running amok in downtown Seoul.

    And what could ROK forces do to enhance their role as “partners” of the US? Helping patrol dangerous waters in the Gulf region or in the sea lanes around Southeast Asia come to mind. What else would work that would (a) be helpful and (b) enhance a true partnership with the US?

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