Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fifty years of slogging through Israel-Korea ties

Just when I get done showing how Koreans are the Italians of Asia, the Jerusalem Post comes along and shows that South Koreans are the Jews (or at least the Israelis) of Asia [HT to Wangkon].

Fair enough, but it was Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, that was once known as the "Jerusalem of the East."

On a more serious note, the article suggests that Jerusalem and Seoul improve ties. Since the Park Chunghee era, and particularly after the oil crisis of the early 1970s, Seoul has reached out more to Israel's Arab neighbors, looking to them for energy imports and then as a market for its export goods.

Even after its defense guarantor, the United States, saw relations go south with Iran and Libya, South Korea kept doing business with them (e.g., the Great Manmade River project). Close Korean ties with Middle Eastern countries is why one of the main thoroughfares in Seoul's tony Kangnam District is called Teheran-no Boulevard.

Of course, Arab and Iranian animus toward Israel meant that some of the richest countries of the Middle East strongly discouraged (if not outright forbade) South Korea from having robust trade and economic ties with Israel. For the bottom line, remaining engaged with rest of the Middle East was a more profitable option than just Israel.

It's not really clear how easily things can change. As Christianity (both Protestantism and Catholicism) continue to grow in stature in the ROK, more and more South Koreans may want closer ties with Israel, à la conservative Christians in the United States, whom they lately seem to be emulating a lot (and often not for the best).

This King of the Jews is Korean, which is about as close as
I'll get to having one picture that embodies the subjects
of this post. Oh, and Happy Easter!


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