TCS Daily

Trouble Down South

By Ken Adelman - January 8, 2003 12:00 AM

Americans need to remember the Korean War, since to the South Koreans it has become "the forgotten war" - as it has long been deemed in the U.S.

Recent South Korean behavior has been nearly as outrageous as that of the North since its Dear Leader Kim resumed flaunting his nuclear specter. And even more infuriating.

That behavior began during the recent South Korean presidential campaign, when the winning candidate suggested that South Korea would not automatically back the United States in any conflict with the North.

Granted, elections tend to unhinge rational thinking. Witness the irresponsible statements by Germans, whose peace and prosperity we likewise furnished with tens of thousands of GIs for over half a century.

But unlike in Berlin, the unhinged thinking persists in Seoul.

South Korea's president-elect, Roh Moo Hyun, is now concocting a plan "that asks for concessions from both U.S. President George Bush and the North Korean leader," according to his transition chief. As the Washington Post accurately assesses, "In the mediation plan, the South Korean government would offer to play something resembling the neutral role of a go-between."

"There are always some people around," Winston Churchill once quipped, "who are content to remain neutral as between the fire brigade and the fire." Evidently, the "people around" the new South Korean government somehow equate their saviors and protectors with their invaders and continuing enemy.

And the lunacy isn't confined to that government. South Korean masses have staged protests against - you guessed it! - our government, not that of the North. And their press has fueled the fire, with the Korean Times editorializing "Seoul will ask U.S. to guarantee the survival of N. Korea."

The last time any government would "guarantee the survival" of a communist regime was when the Soviet Union issued the Brezhnev Doctrine, after his 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Then Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev proclaimed, in essence, once a communist regime, always a communist regime.

To suggest that George W. Bush - who told Bob Woodward that he absolutely loathed the North Korean leader, for starving and enslaving his people - take up the mantle of the Brezhnev Doctrine is a travesty.

This week, top South Korean officials make the rounds in Washington. Before polite diplomatic discourses begin, Bush administration officials should take the South Koreans on a quiet stroll.

Next to the marble wall of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington is the more haunting Korean War memorial. There, steel replicas of American fighting men stand in their winter garb, but seeming frozen to the bone, with their rifles out to meet North Korean invaders.

Aside these men, poised proudly to defend from attack, is an emotion-evoking wall of all the Americans - men and women alike - who were willing to sacrifice their lives that South Koreans may live safe from the horrors of communist tyranny.

The new generation of South Koreans needs reminding that 33,642 Americans gave their lives in "the forgotten war."

After that stroll - back in the cozy confines of official Washington conference rooms - these South Koreans can likewise be reminded that our 37,000 American troops in the DMZ protecting them from invasion by the North can be withdrawn should the new Seoul government no longer want them there.

Among the most admirable moves of President Lyndon Johnson came in the mid-1960s, following Charles de Gaulle's announcement to withdrew France from NATO's military alliance. As Secretary of State Dean Rusk finished briefing Johnson on the logistical details of his upcoming session with de Gaulle, the President calmly ordered something like, "Finally, Dean, ask de Gaulle if he also wants us to move the cemeteries of Americans buried there."

Rusk demurred, but Johnson made him ask. Should we also withdraw the graves of Americans who sacrificed their lives for France's liberation from the Nazis?

Johnson's successor, George W. Bush, needs such a defining moment now. Otherwise, the lunacy of both Koreas will not be forgotten soon.

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