Do we really know where South Korea is?

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by Howard Melamed

“Aren’t you concerned about coming here?” my Korean host asked me. 

Here I am, in Seoul Korea, on a business trip when all of this nuclear  fiasco started going on.  To be more specific. The fiasco I am referring to is the nuclear weapons crisis regarding North Korea, and not the Foley crisis that the US news media seems to be focusing on.  I still am embarrassed that the two are on the same front page together.

For me to be concerned meant that he was  referring to the events over the past 2 weeks where North Korean, and more specifically its maniac leader  Kim Jong-il, decided to show everyone just how diplomacy means nothing in this work and set off to test a nuclear weapon. Even more incredible is that the US insisted on making 100% certain it was in fact a real bomb, and as our intelligence agency finally concluded, if it smells like it, looks like it and tastes like it , it’s it. Brilliant.  I was not there to witness the ground shaking but it did shake…just a little I may add if you live in South Korea.

Koreans are for the most part afraid of not what the maniac to the north will do, but rather what the United States of America will do.  Will they provoke the North to fire artillery shells at Seoul, the South Koreans capital just 60 miles from the border and well within range of the big guns? In fact, they did a poll when I was there, and I am not sure if it made the news here, but 42% of the South Koreans said that the nuclear test in North Korea was the fault of the US.   My Korean friends asked me about that as well, as they were concerned I was offended.  I answered that if they took the same poll in the United States, they would find the same result. In fact, 42% of Americans think 9/11 was a conspiracy.  No country obviously has an exclusivity to idiots.

The conversation went into another direction as we spoke about world events and the experience that the world has gained in dealing with of all people:Americans.  After all, we are seen completely insane at re-electing Bush. The first time they knew we made a mistake and forgave us. But when we had a second chance, well we blew that one as well.  I told them that Kerry wasn’t any better which only reinforced their thinking of us as a complete bunch of idiots. After all, how can both the democrats and the republicans be so stupid as two have two incompetent people running against each other.  I told them Americans like to watch a game no matter who is playing. I mentioned Roller Derby. They nodded their heads now understanding exactly what I was talking about.  We took another sip of Soju, which is the equivalent of our Mojito but with less taste.

They also see that we are bogged down in  Iraq not making any real friends. When they hear how the President of the United States says  to pull out would be a mistake they ask why then did we pull out of Vietnam.  If we can do it there why not Iraq? Good question.  I think I said something intelligent like ” well that’s a different situation, story, war, ummmm. Can I have some more Soju?”  They were polite enough not to persist.  I did notice them smiling, and it wasn’t coming as a result of the Soju.  It is tough being an American these days and being taken seriously.

Now where is Korea? To most Americans, Korea is another place somewhere on a map. Even though Americans have died fighting a war there to keep the peace few can actually show you where it is. Most Americans would place Korea near the Cayman Islands which of course most Americans think is east of Puerto Rico, a suburb of New York.  Even if you say it is over in the Orient and show them a map of that area they will point to Japan, who incidentally is flexing their muscles at the opportunity to show North Korea, and the world that they are also a world power. Let’s see. Germany is growing their army and Japan is doing the same…Didn’t this happen once before? More Soju, thanks.

Then where is China? Actually no one knows where China really is. The arrogance of the Chinese with respect to this crisis is amazing to say the least.  They are the faucet of both weapons, funds, and food for the North Koreans.    They have the power to stop the insanity.  It is in their best interests.  We are their biggest customer. Every one knows you treat your best customer with respect and of course you take care of them. What will happen if the world is once again brought into another war with Korea? Their number 1 customer will stop buying from the supplier to its enemy. Come to think of it, we gave France the cold shoulder because they wouldn’t vote with us in the Iraq war.  I think it is time everyone realizes that we are all economically linked whether we like it or not. Solving the North Korean problem is in China’s best interest.  China, like so many other nations, never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. 

 “Am I concerned about coming here to Seoul?:” I said to my Korean hosts. I took another sip of that Soju.

“As long as most Americans don’t know where this place is….Not at all!” .  We all smiled.

Kam sah hamnida (ㅏ믄모므ㅜㅑㅇㅁ) to Sang, Kelly and Keith!

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