Special Forum

US and Korean attitudes towards one another are largely based on their understanding of the past relationship between the two countries. Far from being a "forgotten war," most Americans have an understanding that US forces fought and died on the Korean Peninsula in the 1950s. Their basic attitude towards Korea still has elements of protectiveness. They also know that Korea is an economic powerhouse and are familiar with Korean products. In sum, Americans today view the Republic of Korea as a success story of American foreign policy. Korean attitudes towards the United States, based on their understanding of history, are more complicated. Gratitude remains for the US sacrifices of the Korean War, particularly among the older generation, although patriotic organizations, and some movie makers, are trying to ensure that knowledge of the war is passed along to the younger population. Yet, there is a belief, particularly among progressives, that postwar US support for authoritarian figures including presidents Syngman Rhee, Park Chung-hee, and Chun Doo-hwan at the expense of the democratic development of Korea still matters. If the United States, indeed, sided at the time with conservative authoritarians against progressive democratic politicians, then it would be unsurprising if the latter’s descendants continued to believe that it was biased against them. This distrust could make policy cooperation more difficult between the US government and a future progressive Korean government.  

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