Friday, May 8, 2009

Two points

I try to avoid commenting on commentary from the Marmot's Hole, but this kind of b.s. deserves some response:
Re: Won Joon Choe and scale of Korean War contributions

One of Wilt Chamberlain’s teammates from the night he scored 100 pts had a famous line:

“We had a great night. Wilt and I combined for 102 pts.”
While I agree with Won Joon Choe that "it is rather disingenuous to imply that [the US] was merely one among many," the remaining UN participants were no mere drop in the bucket. From Wikipedia, a summing up of the non-Americans' "two points":

South Korea
58,127 combat deaths
175,743 wounded
80,000 MIA or POW

United Kingdom
1,109 dead
2,674 wounded
1,060 MIA or POW

721 dead
2,111 wounded
168 MIA
216 POW

516 dead
1,042 wounded

339 dead
1,200 wounded

300 KIA or MIA

112 KIA

123 KIA

106 KIA


New Zealand
33 KIA

South Africa
28 KIA and 8 MIA

While the 3000+ non-American and non-ROK deaths are only one-tenth of the 36,516 official American deaths, those are hardly a mere "two points" to tack on to the US's one hundred. While we're at it, the US's military casualties are only 62% of the ROK's 58,127, which themselves are a fraction of the total South Korean population that died (and on that note, we shouldn't forget the North Korean civilians as well, though I would say they are ultimately the victim of their own government).

[above: Graves of fallen Turkish soldiers at the UN Cemetery in Pusan (click picture for source).]

Indeed, the Korean War was a clear demonstration of the US-led West's resolve to fight the spread of communism, meaning that the nearly 60,000 ROK soldiers and million or so ROK civilians who died were somewhat important in the global fight to protect the part of the globe under capitalist, democratic, and/or Western influence (however one wishes to describe them).

This is not a statement of ingratitude, just a reminder that the benefit was two ways, at least somewhat. Nevertheless, there has long been a great deal of gratitude among South Koreans, even among no small number of young people today. But war dead does not give anyone the right to shit on someone decades later, and it is quite belatedly that USFK began to recognize and remedy that (and I would say that for the most part they are doing a good job; see posts or comments here, here, here, and here about "small footprints").

The whole argument about gratitude takes some very odd turns. Sometime commenter Gillian, who perpetually conflates the Koreans who call the presence of USFK an "occupation" with those who welcome the protection provided by the ROK-US alliance, seems to feel that her brother in 1966 and her son in 2004 (and possibly her own self in 2009) deserve respect if not gratitude for the lives of those who died from 1950 to 1953. Moreover, for many decades the official number of America's Korean War dead was 54,200, almost 50% more than the revised figure. Does this new figure, only 67% of the original figure, mean that South Koreans only need to be two-thirds as grateful as before, or perhaps only two-thirds of the people need to be grateful now while the other one-third can trash the people who fought for that freedom?

For more on my thoughts on this stuff, my defense of the Pax Americana as good for the entire region, including the US and South Korea, and my thoughts (from 2005) on MacArthur and how Koreans view him. (I like rehashing some of my old posts. In many ways this blog is like a stew at a cafeteria: you have to keep adding new things, but if you don't stir things around every now and then, the good stuff sinks to the bottom.)

[Someday I'll get around to writing my long-overdue post on the tyranny of the vocal minority (especially the discomfort of many people to speak up when they disagree with what they think is a majority, whether it is or not, just because someone else said their opinion first) and how it often leads international residents to get a distorted or even wholly inaccurate view of common thoughts, beliefs, and actions (for that matter, it often gives the media an inaccurate impression, as we've seen with anti-American sentiment and things like the 백지영 sex tape and the coming out of Hong Sokchon, etc.).]

1 comment:

  1. Kushibo,

    I think the context of iheartblueballs' transparent hyperbole--to which you allude--is absolutely vital. That is, he was deliberately responding to a nonsense with another (less egregious) nonsense. So I don't think there is much to pick on here, unless his position has been consistently this hyperbolic.

    As for the issue of gratitude, here's my view on it (though I am probably more Confucian and classical in my outlook):

    If someone saved my life and made me rich on top of that, you bet your life that I am going to be grateful to that guy, his children, his grandchildren, and even to his horses and dogs forever. Moreover, while gratitude may be a burden to Machiavelli or the Machiavellian, you bet I will also try to re-pay that kindness gladly whenever my benefactor calls for it, and I am able.


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