The deaths of two middle school girls who were run over by US military vehicles in a rural farming village in 2002 sparked massive protests and became yet another focal point in what had been an orgy of anti-US sentiment.
The parade of catalysts started when South Koreans felt they were dissed when ROK speed skater Kim Dongsung was disqualified at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics when an overacting Apolo Ohno "faked" being fouled and was given the gold instead.
It then went into high gear when then President George W. Bush referred to North Korea as part of the "Axis of Evil" and then proceeded with plans to invade one of them. Prior to that, South Koreans had been lulled into believing that the strong ROK-US alliance was an effective deterrence to a North Korean invasion, meaning there would be no new war on the peninsula, but now the US president had South Koreans sh¡tting their pants that he himself was going to start Korean War II.
It took a break with the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup, a month-long party that saw the Korea Republic national team go far beyond the country's wildest dreams. But then, in the lead up to the presidential election in December, the pro-Pyongyang leftists sought to find that the issue (or combination of issues) that would resonate with the public and usher an anti-USFK candidate into Seoul's Blue House. [If you haven't read my piece on the pro-Pyongyang nature of South Korea's far left chinboistas, including how they manipulated the Mad Cow Disease issue, please do so.]
Roh Moohyun's presidency was the indirect result of all this, but he turned out to be more pro-American than anyone expected. Still, the angry reaction by much of the citizenry beyond the chinboistas was a turning point in US-Korea relations (in many positive ways).
As I wrote at Popular Gusts, it's disgusting the way the leftist chinboistas have used the two girls' deaths for their pro-Pyongyang, anti-Seoul, and especially anti-USFK aims. At the same time, however, the reaction on the other side is also very unseemly. Over the years I've seen so many "defenders" of USFK fall over themselves to blame the middle school girls for their own deaths (e.g., they should have been paying attention better, Koreans are always killing each other in traffic accidents, etc., etc.) as if the adults driving the massive military vehicles are blameless.
The USFK convoy was not an "accident" but an accident waiting to happen. They were large vehicles on small roads (if I remember correctly, the girls would have had to jump into a ditch to avoid them) operating with broken radio equipment that made it difficult to impossible to communicate from one vehicle to the other that there were pedestrians in the roadway. The military personnel were operating on so little sleep that they had made complaints to their commanders about it prior to the accident.
Matt at Popular Gusts is correct that the eventual court martial was politically motivated, and the tragedy of that is not that the two men went on trial, but that the wrong men went on trial. There was criminal negligence at work, but probably not by those two.
But neither side really wants to sully their purer-than-thou argument. One side wants to blame evil USFK and the other side wants to blame hysterical Koreans.
At least we are seeing some real improvement that might prevent such things from happening again. The roads have been improved, and according to this article, the convoys have a USFK member sitting on top to watch for pedestrians, but even the ROK military still runs around there recklessly.
Nate is a former newscaster and sometime journalist, Korean Studies specialist, current doctoral grad student in public health, professional writer and editor, Yonsei alumnus, UCI alumnus, lover not a fighter, Gen-Xer, 1980s pop music aficionado, 5K-per-day runner, fast walker, hiker, temporary permanent resident of Hawaii, Seoul slumlord, California native straight out of Compton, Orange County "native" with a Seth Cohen personality but not a Seth Cohen trust fund, national parks visitor, former Disneyland employee, former UPS employee who still has the uniform and plots ways to abuse that fact, amateur photographer and cinematographer, Mac enthusiast, uncle of several and cousin of many, semi-professional blogger, contrarian scourge, lifelong "Orange Dog Democrat" (Dem from OC) who distrusts other Democrats, ordained minister, eater of oatmeal, onetime student of Japanese who can still put together sentences based on knowledge of Korean, world traveler, frequent flier, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf preferred customer, lover of all things Italian, filial son, frequent visitor of Japan and Hong Kong, and driver of an LPG Kia minivan. Email me.
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Explore Monster Island (um... search this site)
九十五大怪獣란? 쿠시보의 몬스터 아일랜드란?
Pearls of witticism from 'Bo the Blogger: Kushibo's Korea blog... Kushibo-e Kibun... Now with Less kimchi, more nunchi. Random thoughts and commentary (and indiscernibly opaque humor) about selected social, political, economic, and health-related issues of the day affecting "foreans" ("foreigners" in Korea be they kyopo or non-kyopo), Koreans, Korea and East Asia, along with the US, especially Hawaii, Orange County, and the rest of California, plus anything else that is deemed worthy of discussion. Forza Corea!
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Old photos of Jeollanam-do and Gwangju.
[image: 1941 Jeollanamdo Provincial Office]
*Taken in front of the Jeollanam-do Provincial Office, 1941.*
[image: Sajik Park]
*Sajik Park observatory in the...
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Blog roll of blogs that list me in their blog roll (plus a few other blogs I like or check out)
Even before I went into into semi-retirement, I essentially stopped commenting on Marmot's Hole and other K-blogs altogether. But I still occasionally shoot off an editorial comment here and there or respond when someone calls my name. See the COMMENTS section here for some of these pearls of witticism.
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How did you find Monster Island?
* Monster Island (actually a peninsula)
The name of this blog comes from a line in "Lisa on Ice," a beloved episode of The Simpsons, perhaps my all-time favorite television show (even though for several seasons there, it really did suck). Lisa is imagining being sworn in as president, but at the last minute, it is discovered that she failed P.E. (physical education) and she is thus "sentenced to a lifetime of horror" on Monster Island. "Don't worry," the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court confides in her, "It's just a name."
Fast forward to Lisa and other prisoners running in panic through a tropical jungle, chased by Godzilla-like creatures, including a monster turtle and a monster firefly.
"He said it was just a name!" Lisa screams to the man next to her. While he, too, runs for his life, the unidentified man calmly says, "What he meant is that Monster Island is actually a peninsula."
Anyway, I thought in some ways that punchline summed up modern-day Korea in a nutshell. For many people—foreigners and Koreans—the ups and downs and everyday travails of the Republic of Korea make it as precarious as a Monster Island would be (and with the DMZ being the only land border, it really is like an island). But it actually is a peninsula. Okay, it made sense in my head.
So as you can see, despite the hits I get from people looking for Japanese tentacle porn, it has nothing to do with anything salacious as that.
Sarah Palin may not recall what papers she reads, but Kushibo knows what he checks out every day.