Friday, December 07, 2012

Quick Thought about PSY's Past Anti-American Lyrics

Imagine you live in Manhattan.

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Now, imagine that, Central Park does not look like this ...

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But instead, looks more like this.

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For maximum emotional effect, imagine those soldiers looked really different from you. There are thousands of those soldiers in Central Park alone, and thousands more all over the state of New York. Also, there is no cross-town bus that goes through the Park. If you lived in Upper West Side and wanted to get to Upper East Side, you had to up all the way up to the 110th street and back down.

Now, think about the implications of having thousands of soldiers in the heart of your city. What would those young men do on their off days? They might visit a brothel. So now, imagine that Upper West Side, between 72th and 79th streets between Central Park West and Amsterdam, has nothing but seedy bars and whorehouses, with ladies soliciting business in the broad daylight, kind of like this:

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But hey, there's more. After all, these are young men. And young men do dumb shit. Like, say, beating up a cab driver (and the NYPD officer that attempted to stop the beating.) Or breaking into a house and raping a young girl. Or rape, kill and brutally mutilate the body of a prostitute. Or (negligently or not, you can't prove it) run over young school girls with their armored car while getting to their training ground in White Plains. Suppose all those things happen once every two or three months. It's so bad that the commanders of those soldiers impose a nighttime curfew to stop those knuckleheads, but they just don't stop.

And worse yet, New York's law enforcement has no power over them. Once these soldiers return to inside of Central Park, NYPD can't even arrest them. Manhattan DAs can't prosecute them. New Yorkers have absolutely no power to do anything about these soldiers.

If you are a New Yorker in this situation, wouldn't you sometimes want to say:  "FUCK THESE PEOPLE"?

This is the situation in Seoul. USFK is located in the heart of Seoul, through no subway or bus may pass. The area of Seoul around the base has been a giant, seedy ghetto. (Although, to be fair, the Itaewon area is currently experiencing a renaissance of sorts.) All the crimes described above -- from petty to horrifying -- actually happened, and are happening now. And until recently, Korean law enforcement had very little power to do anything about it.

Look, the Korean knows that the situation is more nuanced. (It always is.) He, as well as any Korean, is also aware that U.S. played a vital role in securing freedom in South Korea. Without USFK, there is no free Korea. Don't think Korean people are not grateful about that, because they are. The Korean is also aware that many in the USFK do a lot of good in Korea in the form of community service and volunteering. But they are not enough reasons for Koreans to grovel and let everything slide. Inevitably, some Koreans will make an outburst, sometimes publicly, sometimes as a song.

Does this excuse PSY's crude, anti-American lyrics? Of course not, just as much as USFK's good deeds do not excuse some GI's murders and rapes. The point is this: there is a dangerous level of ignorance among Americans as to just how shitty these American soldiers are behaving abroad -- in an allied country, no less! Consequently, there is also a dangerous level of ignorance among Americans as to just how much damage these shitty behaviors are causing to America's standing in the world. The Korean has previously covered this before in a post about how Koreans perceive the USFK, but it bears repeating: if we can't even keep ourselves from pissing off our allies, what hope do we have of turning our enemies to our friends? How can America be so good at exporting its cultural products, yet so terrible at maintaining good relationship with its friends? 

The Korean will skip the factual history that led to PSY's anti-American outburst -- this Busan Haps piece, which sparked into a Washington Post story (and many more,) should be quite enough to give that background. (Note that it came in response to the war in Iraq, which was none too popular in the U.S. either.) Through this post, the Korean wants you, an American, to do what Americans are so bad at doing: thinking about what how things look from the other side, and trying to process why the world sees us the way they do. Then maybe we might understand why a goofy entertainer, who is otherwise content to rap about partying, came to write such angry lyrics.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

100 comments:

  1. I am not a Korean, though I am married to one, and have lived there for four years. I disagree with the hypothetical that you pose in your blog entry. PSY's comments were not "FUCK THESE PEOPLE" but rather wishing people a tortuous death. To the extent his comments were a political express of outrage, or something of that nature, his comments were not in a context of U.S. Soldiers and Korea, but rather for a then on-going war in Iraq. What's more, the comments were in 2004, two years after the 2002 Yangju incident where two girls were killed, and the subsequent court-martial.

    To clarify, under the US-ROK Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the ROK government has primary jurisdiction for criminal offenses committed by Soldiers off military installations (not in the line of duty). It is entirely common for Soldiers to be turned over by military authorities to the ROK government for trial and confinement.

    Your comment that your described crimes "and are happening now" is an unfair juxtaposition, as the crimes you describe are certainly rare (and, while this is a supposition, more rare than described atrocious crimes are in New York City).

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    1. Also, not to raise further issues from the tragedy of two teenage deaths from the 2002 incident, but it should be noted that Korean, logically due to the immense population density and traffic, applies a strict liability of sorts to any vehicle operator who strikes a pedestrian, regardless of the pedestrian's actions. In the U.S., and under the UCMJ, the standard of negligence is more complex (and thus, leaving room for an acquittal, which may be apparent to one who grew up with the US's legal tradition, but would see greatly skewed to one who was accustomed to Korean legal tradition)

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    2. PSY's comments were not "FUCK THESE PEOPLE" but rather wishing people a tortuous death.

      I think that's needless hair-splitting.

      To the extent his comments were a political express of outrage, or something of that nature, his comments were not in a context of U.S. Soldiers and Korea, but rather for a then on-going war in Iraq.

      Also hair-splitting. It is hardly a stretch to think that the experience with USFK informed the opinion on the war in Iraq.

      Your comment that your described crimes "and are happening now" is an unfair juxtaposition, as the crimes you describe are certainly rare (and, while this is a supposition, more rare than described atrocious crimes are in New York City).

      There were at least two extremely high-profile rape cases twice this year, as well as dozens of reported cab driver-beatings. It is entirely fair to say that the crimes are happening now.

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  2. Dozens of reported cab driver-beatings? Over the past year? Or in the duration of the ROK-US alliance? There were two high profile ones circa 2005 (if memory serves, two separate incidents, but multiple Soldiers in each incident). Those Soldiers were convicted by ROK courts, and sentenced to confinement. There were two high profile rape cases that occurred more than a year ago, in 2011 (and the Soldiers were convicted, though one was later paroled by ROK courts). However, recent actions would have no bearing on PSY's 2002 or 2004 actions or comments. I am not trying to turn this post into a topic on what US Soldier do or do not do in Korea, but I do think your blog post paints an exaggerated context to place PSY's comments.

    While I certainly concede not knowing the connotations of the original Hangul, PSY's translated use of "Yankee" reminiscent of the pejorative use North Koreans use along the DMZ or in reference to US Soldiers. I think PSY's comments, if they are to be rationalized, or more so like the group of college kids one might see near Jongno protesting their government and showing support for communism or North Korea.

    I enjoy your blog! Thank you.

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    1. It's not just the reported beating by USFK soldiers. It's the whole attitude of some USFK soldiers. And the attitudes are a mixture of the following:

      -yes S Korea wouldn't exist if US didn't stop N Korea
      -tinge of racism
      -cultural difference


      http://www.international.ucla.edu/korea/article.asp?parentid=113294
      "He also recalled that during his Army stint he was repulsed by the behavior of many fellow G.I.'s towards South Korean employees and locals they came in contact with near the demilitarized zone."

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  3. Let's not forget that Seoul's transportation goes in above, below, around, under, and essentially *through* the garrison (e.g. the road that connects Noksapyeong and Samgakji station. Seoulites are not at a shortage of transportation options; even if they perceived a shortage, they've never known the supposed time they'd be saving. Once soldiers leave, the plan is to build a fancy park that makes the newest areas of Incheon / Songdo look positively quaint.

    Peter, you might read ROK Drop's occasional reports of Court Martial cases charged under UCMJ. The most recent one is at http://rokdrop.com/2012/07/14/usfk-court-martial-results-for-june-2012/, and shows cases handled by the Korean courts as well. In the month of June alone, 12 people were charged and found guilty of various crimes, with punishments ranging from a 500,000 won fine to 5 years prison time.

    The Korean, your website has a link that Facebook considers 'spammy', and as such will not allow people to share anything from your website.

    As for the article, it sucks when the past comes back to haunt you. When / if that happens, you work through it, apologize, lay low for awhile, then produce another hit song that has everyone dancing again. It seems to have worked for plenty of Western and Korean entertainers.

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    1. Thanks for letting me know -- made a report to Facebook. No idea why it does that...

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    2. I would like to comment on "through" part only.
      The road you mentioned bisects the main post and the south post of Yongsan garrison. I doubt, in first place, that it actually goes "through" the garrison, thinking that DoD and other Korean government buildings reside by that road.
      Even if I agree with "through", I don't see what transportation goes "above" and "below".(I omitted "around" because it is not the case here and "under" because it is same as below.)
      I often move from Banpo area to Namyong-dong area, specifically the Yongsan high school just by the Camp Coiner. Many times I reluctantly join the terrible traffic jam on Hangang Rd, or go through that steep hill road by the Namsan which I don't dare at this time of season.
      As a Seoulite, I often wished that I could take off the cab at the gate of Main Post and just take a five(or so) minutes walk to the gate#2. That would same me not only the time but also from stress from traffic jam.

      Yongsan Garrison has been in Seoul from long long before I was even born. I just regarded it as a natural part of Seoul, until I actually had to move back and forth between Banpo and Namyong-dong.

      Anyway, a proof to the contrary disproves a statement. You are wrong on Seoulites.

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  4. If the US soldiers disappeared from the peninsula tomorrow, It wouldn't even make a dent in the problem the country has with public drunkenness, domestic violence and rape. And don't worry, the brothels, anmas, barber shops and hostess bars lining the streets will still get plenty of business.

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    1. I don't think you got the point of the post.

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    2. Not that that excuses any of the reprehensible behavior at all, don't get me wrong. My point is that there is a disconnect between public perception and reality. Psy contributed to the misinformation machine that had real-world consequences (Americans that were targeted for kidnapping and beatings). And based on what he says about his own music (that people shouldn't look too deeply at it and it's just for fun), then we can only surmise that he spread anti-Americanism purely for personal gain.

      That being said, the man had his sincere apology locked and loaded (he had to have been waiting for it to come out), and I believe him. I just hope there will be some learning from his mistake.

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    3. excuse me? whether Korea has hostess bars is none of your concern as U.S. having hookers in Las Vegas and random neighborhoods is none of ours. Yes, Psy venting his lyrics was severe as was US military soldiers standing around taking pictures during the Bodo League Massacre that killed women and children. these are ACTUAL WOMEN AND CHILDREN by the thousands, not just lyrics you know? so instead of derailing a musician writing/venting about his nation's anger and frustration and pain and this history that YOUR country has a direct hand in, how about you learn when to sit down and be quiet. He's not "spreading" but EXPRESSING the emotions he feels towards that violent history U.S. is directly liable for.
      Maybe instead of only condescendingly suggesting he be soo sorry and sincere in apology, you should make equal efforts to look into why.
      Also, artists and musicians and people have a right to voice their opinions and emotions.
      and dont worry about Korea's "public drunkeness, domestic violence and rape" that's for Koreans to work on, why don't you worry about those same exact things that go on daily in U.S. and mind your business.

      Feel free to read below my post quoting Noam Chomsky on some little known facts about what really went down.

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  5. The UCMJ cases are those (generally) where the accused and victim are both US persons under the SOFA. I am not saying there is not "routine" crime, it is not uncommon for Soldiers to be convicted for traffic offenses, as rokdrop, or more directly, though the US Forces Korea website http://www.usfk.mil/usfk/court-martial. My concern was with the more narrative sensationalization of the crimes in an attempt to put PSY's comments in some context. His comments, which are not included in the article, but which are likely more violent than any mainstream artist has said in regards to the US military, or America at large. As translated: "Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers Kill them all slowly and painfully."

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  6. I agree with you that the crimes you mentioned are a black eye to the United States, but they're also a byproduct of making 18-22 year old men our ambassadors to the world. The only two ways to COMPLETELY eradicate them would be to make USFK members veritable prisoners on their own bases, or to eliminate USFK completely. I assume the first option would be deemed unacceptable by the U.S. military, while the second option would have huge economic and political costs to the Republic of Korea. Without USFK, the ROK would probably have to raise the percentage of its budget given to defense spending from 3% to 5%, all while coming up with 30,000 more active duty soldiers. This would mean higher taxes for everyone, along with possibility of longer conscriptions for men in their 20s, with all the negative things that entails. Given this, I think the costs to Korea of GI crime are far less than the benefits that are derived from having them in the country.

    With that said, outbursts like PSY's may be a natural outgrowth of the loss of national sovereignty that South Korea experiences due to the presence of U.S. troops on its soil. For expats living here, I think it's important that we consider this before getting too bent out of shape about the occasional bouts of anti-Americanism that occur here. At the same time, I don't think you can blame the average American if they decide not to consume the products of an artist who raps about torturing the families of U.S. soldiers. Just as the crimes of U.S. soldiers inevitably harm America's "national brand", these anti-American outbursts also have the potential to tarnish Korea's brand.

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  7. I have to agree with Peter in that PSY took his lyrics one step too far. Anger against the United States about the SOFA and Iraq? Understandable. Anger against US servicemen who tortured Iraqi prisoners? Completely reasonable. Wishing the deaths of those above? Extreme, but it can be understood in the context. Yet the call to "Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers Kill them all slowly and painfully"? That goes from a political statement, or even an angry backlash, to something much darker and more sadistic. Ice-T didn't call for the tortuous deaths of the cops' families, and I don't even think I've seen anything that detailed in the stream of the regular death threats from Islamic extremists. You can chalk it up to a rhetorical flourish if you want, but that crosses a line for me. Yes, I understand those words weren't penned by him, but he still deliberately chose those specific lines to perform in public.

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  8. Let it go. The man sang that song once. 8 god damn years ago (for a reason) and he already apologize with such humbleness and class. Let him do his work and entertain people.

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  9. He only apologized because his past caught up with him...well after the fact. And did you actually hear him apologize or did you read what his highly-paid publicist wrote for him?

    Everyone deserves a second chance, and I think Psy probably regrets it now that he's been called on it, but should the Commander-in-chief of the United States military attend a performance by a person who actually expressed such hatred directly at his servicemen, and their families (that's a lot of Americans), on Sunday, or should Psy be pulled from the line-up?

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    1. He only apologized because his past caught up with him...well after the fact.

      Has there ever been a case where someone apologized for something that s/he did years ago without any prompting from anyone? Would you do it?

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    2. "Would you do it?"

      Yes, I have done it and will probably do it a few more times before my time runs out.

      But, I've also done it in person and via my own voice. Do you happen to have a link to where I can see, and hear, Psy apologizing for this either in Korean or English?

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    3. I understand apologies are in order for past wrongs somewhere around step 8 or 9...

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  10. Finally! Someone said it! As someone who has been following anything and everything about South Korea for over 13 years, I can honestly say that I dont blame PSY one bit for his lyrics. The atmosphere between the Korean Citizenry and the US military forces is tantamount to a powder keg. When something happens to Korean citizens, perpetrated by the "occupying" forces, the country's government, people, and media go nuts. And in most cases its totally justified. I remember when this song came out and as a white American i was very proud of PSY for making a stand. Overly proud, Overly patriotic Americans will never understand how the world sees our country, because they are blinded by such patriotism. I know this country is screwed up and I know that until we learn from our past mistakes and elect officials who are willing to battle against our past, we will never get anything done. People should take this whole situation with a grain of salt and learn from it. Instead of pitching a fit they should reflect and try to understand Korea - and in this case PSY's point of view at the time. I think that he had to apologize for what he did is bogus on multiple levels. Why apologize for art. Art is that what you perceive. Just cause you didnt like it or were offended by it doesnt mean that its still not art.

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  11. I admire how you initially frame this issue. But, we need to keep the diplomatic and political issues, like alliance-related issues, conscription in South Korea, and North Korea, etc. and both American and South Korean military personnel distinct. Most military personnel in both countries do an incredible job, not only performing their respective duties, but also interacting with one another. I'm not going to resort to the lazy argument, that there's always a few bad apples. Instead, I would argue that both American and South Korean enlisted personnel are victims of alliance and South Korean domestic politics. PSY expressed one side, and one variant, of South Korean opinion in 2004, and it was repulsive and morally wrong.

    What I am beginning to resent in this brouhaha is, that, as with the Busan Haps story, the meme is becoming merely, that this is a commercial issue: feed PSY money if you want, or not. No, this is about PSY's ugly opinion about a deeper diplomatic and political debate over the ROK-US alliance and American interests in general. I wouldn't hesitate to condemn PSY, but any voter or any family member with a serving enlisted son or daughter should be asking why Americans put young people in these impossible situations where they become the brunt of spite by mediocre hacks like PSY. Thank you, PSY, for starting the debate. And, PSY, you're welcome! PSY has made his blood money, and we, the victims, are too lazy to take advantage as well as he has.

    Let's save ourselves the burden, and seriously consider draining the swamp of the ROK-US alliance by removing US troops from the peninsula! In the long run, South Koreans and Americans will be better off!

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    1. Sir, I begged to differ. My husband in not only an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran (served 3, 18 month tours) but was also station in Korea. The ROK-US alliance is beneficial and detrimental to both sides, as every military cooperation/occupation strategy is. You're going to have people from both sides of the argument slinging mud at times. However, you failed to miss the point of this whole scandal. He put out a song that accurately mirrored the Korean sentiment during that time, it wasn't a political statement as so much catering to the mob mentality of the situation. Koreans across the board were upset at the US for the treatment of POW's at Gitmo, then add on top of that the killing of two teenagers, then add on top of that all the rest of misbehavior and crimes that soldiers have committed while stationed there; it takes no stretch of the imagination to know exactly why he made the song. My husband witness first hand exactly how soldier from the US treat the citizenry in Korea, and its in his exact word "atrocious". He agrees with me that PSY shouldnt have written those lyrics however, he also makes the point that PSY's reaction is "understandable and totally justified from his point of view."

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    2. Firstly, I am grateful for your husband's service. Living family members have served in every war from WW2 to Afghanistan, and I was fortunate enough to serve in South Korea at a time between bad military deployments. But, you misunderstand me. I'm talking about the entire history of ROK-US relations since the Korean War, of which the 2002-4 episodes are a piece, and why the US after so many decades is still deploying young men and women on the peninsula. Actually, I think the US role in the Gwangju Massacre was far more egregious than the 2002 one. Perhaps in the 80s it was clearer that Gwangju was not about grunts and a matter of high politics. But, I think that's a false distinction. Military personnel are taking the heat for a general policy of deploying troops rather than other alternatives, and I despise both governments as well as the laypeople that either support this or who do nothing to stop it. We ask too much of these young people, for no good reason.

      I also think - and I'm no culture expert - that, like manga from Japan, Americans would know even less about Korean popular culture if not for the deployments in Japan and South Korea that have lasted for so long. PSY is working a groove between the US and South Korea that allows him to exploit social media and now American media corporations, because of the alliance. And, media corporations aren't going to criticize PSY when he has demonstrated his ability to make money. Again, disgusting.

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    3. Humesbastard, you can't just throw that out the Gwangju incident without explanation. Exactly what was the US role in it? I'm pretty sure USFK didn't order the ROK SF to open fire on Korean civilians. My understanding of the situation is that it was purely a Korean issue. Of course, officials were more than happy to implicate USFK after the fact if it took some of the heat off of themselves.

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    4. http://timshorrock.com/?p=435

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  12. Perhaps it's a good thing South Korea's widespread anti-American-military sentiments have finally been communicated in English and it might encourage Washington to consider withdrawing their troops from the country, for both its own and South Korea's benefit.

    Stalin withdrew all troops from the North around 1948 and even China entirely withdrew after participating in the Korean War. Although the results in North Korea were negative, with democracy having been established in the South (no thanks to Washington which consistently supported the dictators) there is no justifiable, or helpful, reason for American troops to still be in South Korea (which would in turn become a friendlier ally if they left).

    South Korea could and should be able to pay its own defense bills and stand up to the now highly unlikely threat of a second Northern invasion. If the conflict ever does reignite, America's current military presence only invites China's participation and another similar outcome to the previous war (including a large body count of American soldiers). In the realms of fantasy, if North Korea somehow overran the South after America troops had withdrawn: the US could always come back again (if it wanted to). Similarly, and perhaps more crucially (and tragically), the peninsula would remain under the American nuclear umbrella - the key deterrent - whether or not troops are on the ground.

    From the American perspective, aside from being bankrupt, there's the issue that South Korea's unification projects transfer money to the North and thus help fund the very dictatorship American troops are supposed to be there to defend against!

    PSY's lyrics were excessive but his apology was highly self-serving. A shame he doesn't hold onto his views (if he ever had them) and consider for himself whether he really wants to perform in front of Obama.

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  13. TK's perspective on this simply reinforces the impression I have that Koreans do not in fact feel ashamed of these lyrics, do not feel that it was wrong for Psy to sing them or for so many to enjoy listening to them, and are not asking themselves any searching questions about why they did so; they are simply concerned about minimizing the damage to their image abroad. If TK can point to any examples in the Korean press of real regret, I would be more than happy to stand corrected.

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  15. Bad soldiers give a bad name to the good soldiers out there, and I am obviously heavily against the fatalities that have occurred in any war (both the reported and unreported; physical, emotional and spiritual wounds/deaths). I saw the lyrics for PSY's song, however, and they were down-right crossing lines. That was about as bad as that small religious group who stated that soldiers were dying because of gay people and holding up signs at soldier's funerals saying "Thank God for dead soldiers". That's just disrespectful to the honest and good soldiers out there, American or otherwise. So, sure, I understand that PSY was upset, but what he did was not a protest against the war or even a proper protest against the bad eggs among US soldiers. He just spewed out a song of hate and disrespect.

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  17. Up to a point, I tend to agree with you. Singing about killing family members of USFK personnel, however, was unacceptable even if he was singing someone else's lyrics. People change considerably as they get older, especially a decade older, and I think he has handled this well. Still, those lyrics, regardless of his anger and annoyance.

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  20. Comment via email form Mike S.

    Dear Mr. Ask A Korean,

    Your blog post ( http://askakorean.blogspot.kr/2012/12/quick-thought-about-psys-past-anti.html ) was very interesting to me because I spent most of my adult life living on the upper east side of Manhattan and I have often thought about how I would feel if the Chinese army, or whoever, had a base there or on the Mall in DC, having lived in Korea about ten years ago. I am now back in Korea for business temporarily and I totally understand and even sympathize with anti-American, or at the very least anti-US Army, sentiment. It would grate on me if a similar situation were in New York or Washington or wherever, frankly.

    Having said that, this is what Psy said (assuming the translation is correct):

    Kill those Fucking Yankees slowly and painfully
    Kill those fucking Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives
    Kill those fucking Yankees who ordered them to torture
    Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers
    Kill them all slowly and painfully

    Kill those fucking Yankees. Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law (don't know why sons and sons-in-law didn't enter the picture), and fathers. That's some serious Nazi shit. I cannot think of any group of people in the world, no matter how they may have wronged my country or my people or whatever, that I would wish that they die "slowly and painfully," and it's pure sadism to wish death upon their "daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers." I appreciate you trying to put this in some sort of perspective, but what he said is beyond forgivable. I don't care if he said it about Americans or any other group of people. This is sociopathic. It does not deserve forgiveness. He should be shamed into obscurity. And you might want to stop being a shameless apologist.

    Best

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    2. Was he in fact encouraging to (1) "kill those (fucking) Yankees who" did something wrong, or (2) all of the Yankees? The above English translation made me think of (1). It would be great if someone could check the original version and figure out which of the above nuances are conveyed in Korean.

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    3. "Kill all those among the Yankee big-noses who torture Iraqis" vs "Kill all those Iraqi-torturing big-nosed Yankees"? Either is unacceptable, but I'm curious too as to which was meant in the original Korean. And how the audience at the time generally understood it (as opposed to how people claim to understand it now).

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  21. Comment via email by Pete E.


    Your NYC/Central Park similes were very effective.

    I don't know the current timeline for USFK HQ's departure from Yongsan to points south but it's sometime soon. They're building "Little America" down there now. Soon a tour in Korea will not involve getting involved with Koreans - what a pity! My time in Korea (1965-1971) was the highlight of my life.
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments and all the best.

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  22. If South Korea is not paying 100% of the bill, lets bring home the troops.

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    1. For a variety of reasons, the US saves a lot of money by stationing those personnel there. South Korea pays about half, and that's a good deal for both sides.

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  23. Since WWII US military policy has directly and expectedly resulted in the 'slow and painful deaths' (among other types) of thousands of wives, sisters, daughters, etc. Of civilians. The fire bombings of the cities of Germany and Japan, the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan (with multi-generational slow and painful consequences), the napalming of Korean and Vietnamese civilian populations. The 'collateral damage' in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These are actual deaths. Delivered by servants of the American government on behalf of decision makers fully aware that their plans and policies would likely cause the 'slow and painful' deaths of civilians. And judged that to be an acceptable price to pay to fulfil their goals.

    Are you are more offended that a then 20-something pop singer sang lyrics endorsing the return of some of this treatment in kind than you are by the actual 'slow and painful' deaths delivered by US policy?

    Let's see on the one hand the most powerful military force in the world has sent it's sons and daughters out to fulfil missions which their leaders know will kill civilians. On the other, um, a pop singer singing a song causing, as far as I know, no actually deaths.

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    1. You make a valid point, but I just wanted to share a thought. You underestimate the power of a pop singer. Speeches, songs, literature and so many other things have moved people to change and into to action. The message of that song wasn't "Stop the raping, stop the killing, stop this war." It was, "We should just kill them. All of them." and you can say that it was just a song and to not read too deeply into it, but someone out there is going to take it seriously and they are going to continue the vicious cycle of hate and death.

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    2. Of course war is much more serious than hate lyrics, but it wasn't the American people who perpetrated those wars but the American government. It was Korean people and not the Korean government who produced, performed and listened to this song and others like it, and no one thought to condemn it. Can you imagine anti-war protestors holding up signs wishing death and torture on US servicemen, much less their wives and daughters? And if anyone did, wouldn't others disapprove?

      Let governments be judged for the actions of governments, and let societies be judged for the behaviour of societies.

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    3. Of course war is much more serious than hate lyrics, but it wasn't the American people who perpetrated those wars but the American government.

      Considering that the American government is elected by American people, I am not sure how much water this argument holds.

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    4. Of course lyrics are influential but not as explicitly deadly as a cluster bomb.

      And I agree with The Korean on this question of American people versus American government. If we were discussing the actions of an unelected, autocratic government ordering a conscripted army to secretly carry out missions which they know will result in civilian deaths -- that would be valid but these decisions of the American government made by elected official operating, at least in recent wars, in a pretty transparent environment in which citizens can and do know what sort of decisions are being made in their name. If the people disapprove of these decisions they are free to protest, give voice to their opposition, publish, support other candidates, etc. Under these circumstances I think that, broadly speaking, the American are responsible for the actions of their government -- as are the citizens of all open, democratic countries responsible for their governments.

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    5. I agree that in a democracy the people are responsible for the actions of their government. Democracy is not functioning very well in US at the moment, however. Even if this state of affairs, too, can ultimately be blamed on the people for not taking action to rectify it, the fact remains that there was no candidate they could have voted for in the last election to express their preference for a change in foreign policy - nor perhaps has there ever been. If public opinion had been consulted, American involvement in Iraq would have been over far sooner; and if the American public had not been deliberately duped into thinking Iraq had WMDs there would have been no support for the Iraq war in the first place. There are many other cases where the gap between public opinion and government policy is large.

      On the other hand, societies have levels of morality. American society morals have advanced far beyond what they were in the 60s, for example, when it was possible to talk about exterminating native Americans without raising an eyebrow. I would simply suggest that South Korean society needs to reflect, if people can talk publically about murdering and torturing innocent women and children without anyone objecting.

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  24. This post is a load of myopic, one-sided bullshit.
    As a Korean-American in his 30s, I have relatives who experienced the Korean War directly. All of them without exception feel great loyalty and gratitude to the American GIs who fought and died so that Korea could be free--most of these soldiers having never heard of Korea before being deployed there. Yes, they fought under orders to protect American interests, but that does not diminish their actions. Moreover, my grandparents and uncles and aunts are thankful not only for the grand reasons of America protecting South Korea from Communist rule, but also on a profoundly personal level where they experienced firsthand the generosity exhibited by American GIs to many Koreans in need. My grandfather in particular has many stories and fond memories of their kindness.

    It makes me sick that so many members of the current generation of South Koreans do not understand or appreciate the sacrifices made by U.S. Korean War veterans. Yet, they are quick to judge the whole based on the heinous actions of a few. You point out the lack of understanding by Americans about the situation of GIs in Korea? I say the failure of Koreans today to give American soldiers their due is by far the more egregious fault.

    Finally, do you not find the irony of Psy's situation to be mindblowing? Here we have a South Korean (not Korean-American) musically trained in the US who became a multi-millionaire by writing an American pop song with Korean lyrics which became huge in the US. American celebrities think that being famous means they are brilliant and therefore are prone to saying stupid, ignorant things, especially in areas where they have zero expertise like politics or economics. When they do, they often are vilified for it and justifiably so. So why the need to defend Psy when he is nothing but a pop star? What is the difference here? So many double-standards in your post that it's perplexing and disappointing.

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    1. Finally, do you not find the irony of Psy's situation to be mindblowing?

      Not really. History is replete with examples in which (perceived) adversaries borrow each other's ideologies and technologies to strike at each other.

      So why the need to defend Psy when he is nothing but a pop star?

      If you read the post more carefully, you will find that I am not defending anyone.

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    2. Okay mindblowing is 'overblown'. if you will. But your reply of adversaries borrowing other ideologies/technologies to strike at each other makes it sound as if this was a calculated artistic statement by Psy, when in fact Psy was and is nothing more than a pop star. He isn't an avante-garde artist concerned with form whose use of imperialist modes of art creates an internal dissonance shattering the barrier between object and viewer or some bullshit like that. That was an intentionally pretentious and meaningless statement btw, but you get what rhetorical point I am trying to make.

      You say you are not defending him when you clearly are in some sense. That's not to say you exculpate him, but you are attempting to mitigate the stupidity and vitriol of his lyrics by saying we need to put them in context. And I say there is no context that excuses or mitigates what he said.

      In that perhaps peculiarly Korean manner of thinking, I was proud when he broke out because there hasn't been a Korean who has attained that kind of global pop culture celebrity before, especially in the West. Likewise, I also felt disappointed that Korea's first superstar cultural ambassador probably damaged his legacy and any chances of continued success in the U.S. But one thing is for sure, I do not and will not sugarcoat the nonsense that he spewed.

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    3. That was an intentionally pretentious and meaningless statement btw, but you get what rhetorical point I am trying to make.

      No, I don't get it. I can only read what you write. If you know you were being meaningless, then you should know that you came across as meaningless. If you are going to hang PSY for what he said, you should probably care a bit more about what you are saying as well.

      And I say there is no context that excuses or mitigates what he said.

      I said the exact same thing in the post.

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    4. Mmmmm, there are so many things I want to say....Being in my 50s, I fear that my perspective is one that most who read this blog will have no reference point for. When I lived in Korea, in the mid 70s, most Koreans had a love-hate relationship with Americans. Most of them remembered the war, and many of them remembered the Japanese occupation. They also remembered the devastating chaos and poverty. They were thankful with unwavering hearts, and held General McCarther in great esteem. On the other hand, everyday living with Americans was difficult, because of culture differences. Misunderstandings were common in my experience, because of lack of knowledge of each other's thinking and ways. Things like this often led to fights between Americans and Koreans. These kind of misunderstandings escalate anger and frustration, and the American military did practically nothing to educate soldiers and their families concerning Korean culture, and expectations. Of course, there were incidents of G.I.s being over-the-top, but I have to tell you that what I heard about most was Korean soldiers going into bars, or restaurants, shooting everyone in sight, and then killing themselves. It happened regularly, long before those kinds of things began to happen in the U.S. As to the level of killing young girls, Koreans do that, too, and that is what the law is for. It should be enforced to the maximum.

      Then there is the issue that both American and Korean cultures, values, and thinking have changed drastically since then. There are very few around who still remember that conflict and the relationship that Korea and the U.S. had. Young Americans have self-esteem to level of "I am a god." Having been raised in a time when the U.S. was respected by the free world for our actions, my perspective is that American pride in our country has turned into personal hubris. But, then there is the change in the Korean mind-set that is much more accepting of communism by many. Many see the American military as a useless blight that is holding up the progress of re-unification. These two mind-sets make a volatile mixture.

      Then there is the "entertainment" business. My perspective comes from a time when entertainers entertained. Now, they are experts on politics, parenting, culture, and anything else that they want to mouth off about. What's worse is that people listen to it. It's completely irresponsible to flame the passions of people to take actions that are worse than what was done in the first place, but that's the world that we live in, now. And, I think that TK said as much. When did we decide that entertainers were the people to guide us in our thinking?

      Tk, I want to give a little perspective from the American soldier view point. When the soldier steps off base he becomes a target for many things, one of which is monetary. Overt things may have changed some, but you couldn't walk down the street without the price of everything skyrocketing, children running after you begging for cigarettes, or money. Scammers followed you, and those who wanted to practice their English. Coming from a country where strangers don't approach you, except for directions, the soldier begins to feel like a slab of fresh meat. These kinds of things are the things that begin to create a short fuse in him. Koreans also see things in the soldier that offend him, and making him angry. I think that these kinds of things haven't changed much, but the mind-set to deal with them has.

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    5. You are trying to have your cake and eat it too (i.e. I'm implying this, but don't condemn me, because I'm not really saying it.) You have a ridiculous number of qualifiers in your post, yet fundamentally, you are asking readers to take Psy's lyrics within a larger context. There is no getting around that. So here's a litmus test: give me a TL;DR. Tell me what your post says in one sentence. Given the large amount of space dedicated to Psy and how the contentious history between Koreans & the US military might color Psy's abhorrent viewpoints, many of your readers are not so naive as to believe that your sole point is to highlight the lack of understanding by Americans concerning this uneasy relationship.
      As to the prior point, the example was gibberish, but the rhetorical point it made was not. If it was not self-evident, then what I meant was Psy was not using form to make some post-modern, deconstructionist point and yes, you definitely implied it, even if you did not mean to. Since you want to be precise, I should point out that you were deliberate in choosing words like 'adversaries' and 'ideologies' which have certain connotations particularly when it comes to art.

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    6. fundamentally, you are asking readers to take Psy's lyrics within a larger context. There is no getting around that.

      Sure. Still don't see how considering the larger context excuses anything, especially when I wrote explicitly: "Does this excuse PSY's crude, anti-American lyrics? Of course not"

      So here's a litmus test: give me a TL;DR. Tell me what your post says in one sentence.

      So, you are saying that my words do not reflect what I think. If you don't believe what I write, what's the point of reading it?

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    7. No one is buying that argument.
      Asking for readers to look at the larger context only begs the question why? Surely, there is a point. You make it clear what that is, which is Americans should cut Psy some slack because his viewpoints arise from a certain history between American soldiers and Koreans. I don't understand why you won't concede this. I am not being argumentative here. I know you know exactly what I am talking about. I've read your blog long enough to know you are bright. So why the coy act? Why not drop all the qualifiers and admit what you feel and go from there. You are human and subject to your biases as well, namely your instinct--'it's a Korean thing'--to defend Korea's first major global star, for which in my Korean heart I also share a similar predilection. The difference for me is that I find his words so noxious, so mean-spirited, so extreme in their hatred relative to the 'crime' (or larger context) that I cannot find any excuse to lessen them in any way. Admittedly, some simple-minded Americans might judge Koreans at large based on the actions of one person just as some fatuous Koreans might attribute the misdeeds of a few GIs to all American soldiers. But screw those idiots, American or Korean.

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    8. I don't understand why you won't concede this. I am not being argumentative here.

      You are trying to make me say something that I don't believe in -- that's plainly argumentative. If you think that PSY's words were "so noxious, so mean-spirited, so extreme in their hatred relative to the 'crime' (or larger context) that I cannot find any excuse to lessen them in any way[,]" that's fine by me. You are completely free to form your opinion; I can't make you to feel one way or the other.

      On the other hand, I don't understand your insistence that I must feel exactly the same as you do. Why must I drop the qualifiers, when the qualifiers are necessary to describe my opinion? The way I feel about this issue is expansive and nuanced. Why should I reduce that to fit your whim?

      You are human and subject to your biases as well, namely your instinct--'it's a Korean thing'--to defend Korea's first major global star, for which in my Korean heart I also share a similar predilection.

      I guess you haven't read this blog long enough to know that I have a passionate dislike for Park Chan-ho, Korea's first Major Leaguer. Let me repeat, once again: I'm not defending anyone in this post. I said it explicitly in the post, and I have said it again and again in my replies to you. I don't know what more I can say about that.

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    9. Unknown, I think you're missing the point here.

      Giving something context is not the same as excusing it. Trying to figure out why something might have happened does not validate it.

      I noticed the same inability to distinguish between these two things in the post-9/11 media fervor, when most pundits and politicians refused to entertain the reasons why such a horrific event might have happened because they saw that as excusing it. So instead they resorted to them simply being crazy and evil and, my favorite, "They hate us for our freedoms."

      Human beings don't do anything without a reason. Knowing what that reason is can lead to constructive change and hopefully avoiding such unfortunate incidents in the future, while playing the blame game is shortsighted and only creates more hate.

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    10. Except we don't need any deeper understanding here, because it is no surprise to anyone that anti-American sentiment exists in Korea. It is not difficult either for an American to hazard a guess as to what the reasons behind those sentiments might be. The real issue is the level of hatred in Psy's lyrics and the evil in wishing a tortuous death upon Americans, for which there is no sufficient justification. This is a simple case of a pop star who went too far. Similarly, I don't need to reexamine the history of slavery to understand why Kanye West says and does the ridiculous things he does. Maybe, it's not some grand, carefully articulated expression of political rage, but simply, the act of an immature, egotistical jerk. Sometimes, a cigar is a just a cigar.

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  25. Psy characterizes his lyrics as a "deeply emotional" reaction and says he "deeply regrets the inflammatory and inappropriate language" he used. If he couples that apology with future appropriate action that's good enough for me. TK, you should know, the situation in Korea hasn't changed much in 2012. Foreigners like myself in Korea still occasionally get called a "f---ing Yankee" for no reason whatsover by Koreans who can't control their emotional reaction, even when you are just trying to take a subway from Incheon to Seoul. Anti-American sentiment still runs high in some places here. You see it in the random nasty looks you get, the clerks at the convenience store who use ban-mal with you (because they think you don't know any better-a sneaky f*** you really), and of course the occasional US protests. That said, is it getting any better here? Yes. Slowly but surely it is. Korea still needs time to adapt.

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  26. Look...Koreans and Americans have at least one thing in common. Nationalism to an extreme level. You should see all the "patriots" freaking out on Facebook about Psy. I think a couple of years ago an American kid, Jay Park, got into some trouble when a private page from his MySpace account was translated wrong to make it look like he said bad things about Korea. The kid flew back to Seattle 4 days later! He's since returned to huge crowds of fans. Why do we care what some 20 something rapper said almost a decade ago? So everyone who does anything has to be vetted back at least ten years to make sure they never said anything about anything...geez.

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  27. My husband was in the Navy in the early 80's. The kids that worked under him constantly got into trouble. Moreover, around the bases he served, the area was seedy and crime was rampant. A Navy officer friend of ours was mugged within a block of the base! I am talking about American bases. There is a fundamental problem with our young men in the military that has nothing to do with what country they are stationed in.

    As for rapper talk, in our own country we have Ice-T who rapped F the Police and then played one on TV! A typical entertainer who wants attention. Let's work on our logs instead of complaining about others' specks.

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  28. I found this post shocking for a number of reasons. First, I don't see how contrasting "fuck these people" with "Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers ... Kill them all slowly and painfully" is splitting hairs. Former is a dismissive, angry rant while the latter is an instigation of torture against innocent people.

    Second, I found this post internally discombulating. You write at length about how horrible these US soldiers are and then you say it doesn't justify Psy's actions (if it doesn't, why mention it at all?)

    Third, you mention how ignorant Americans are of their soldiers' behavior abroad. Do you read Naver's most read article of the week? Week after week, you will read about Koreans killing Koreans, Koreans raping Korean children, and so on. Just this past week, a teacher molested a 12 year kid, a prosecutor took a sexual bribe, a woman beat her son to death, etc. And how many times do you see ahjuhshees throwing up on the street or fighting on the street? Every time I visit Korea, I have to witness grown men beating each other in a drunken brawl. Once I had to sit on a bus while the bus driver halahbujhee went outside to beat up another Korean ahjushee. As for visiting brothels, the majority of men who visit brothels in Korea are Korean men. So the point is that depraved debauchery is okay if it's committed by Koreans but not okay if it's done by American soldiers?

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    1. First, I don't see how contrasting "fuck these people" with "Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers ... Kill them all slowly and painfully" is splitting hairs. Former is a dismissive, angry rant while the latter is an instigation of torture against innocent people.

      Of all the objections, this is the one that I find the most mystifying. It is as if people have never been angry and said much more than what they meant to say.

      Second, I found this post internally discombulating. You write at length about how horrible these US soldiers are and then you say it doesn't justify Psy's actions (if it doesn't, why mention it at all?)

      By that logic, does everyone who explores the mind of a serial killer endorse mass murder? All I am doing here is introducing a context. If you are still not in the mood to be generous to PSY after seeing the context, that's totally fine. But I don't see why people get upset at the fact that I am providing information.

      So the point is that depraved debauchery is okay if it's committed by Koreans but not okay if it's done by American soldiers?

      Where did I say that? Please focus on what I actually wrote, as opposed to what you think I wrote.

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    2. I know you didn't write that. I didn't say you did. I was merely pointing out that Koreans are being hypocritical if they think that the behavior of USFK is worse than their own. Something always looks worse when foreigners do it.

      If the behavior of USFK is really that horrendous and what Psy sang was merely a "fuck these people" type rant, then why don't you think he was justified? You give plenty of reasons for why he sang that but make one passing statement that that doesn't justify his action. Well, why not?

      I don't really buy the serial killer analogy. Almost everyone can agree that serial killers are bad. But it's not clear to me whether you think what Psy did was bad and whether Koreans are justified in their anti-American rant. I think that is a topic worth exploring (instead of what one pop singer thinks) and as someone who has lived in both countries and is a critical thinker, your thoughts on this topic would be greatly valued.

      Note: You wrote that Psy wrote the lyrics. Just wanted to note that it was written by some heavy metal band called NEXT (or something like that) and Psy just sang it.

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    3. If the behavior of USFK is really that horrendous and what Psy sang was merely a "fuck these people" type rant, then why don't you think he was justified?

      Are you saying that "fuck these people" would have been ok? Because that's really bizarre to me. What's the line between "fuck these people" and PSY's lyrics?

      I don't really buy the serial killer analogy. Almost everyone can agree that serial killers are bad. But it's not clear to me whether you think what Psy did was bad and whether Koreans are justified in their anti-American rant.

      Even if I clearly said that PSY's lyrics were inexcusable? I said the same thing already to a different commenter -- if you don't believe my words, stop reading them. But don't expect me to say what you want me to say just because you really want me to say it.


      Note: You wrote that Psy wrote the lyrics. Just wanted to note that it was written by some heavy metal band called NEXT (or something like that) and Psy just sang it.


      First, N.Ex.T is not just "some heavy metal band" -- it is probably a top 5 rock band in the history of Korean pop music. Second, I own the album, and the jacket clearly attributes the lyrics to PSY.

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    4. I know you didn't write that. I didn't say you did.

      You very much did. Your entire paragraph (starting with "Third") was addressed to me. If you are going to hang PSY for his words, you should probably be more careful with your own as well.

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    5. Even if I clearly said that PSY's lyrics were inexcusable? I said the same thing already to a different commenter -- if you don't believe my words, stop reading them. But don't expect me to say what you want me to say just because you really want me to say it.
      Because it's a disingenuous statement. Maybe you should reread the post yourself and see how it comes across to neutral readers. Context matters. Structure matters. You can't write a post spending most of the space discussing how Americans soldiers have created a negative image in Korea, then say you are not excusing his behavior or trying to mitigate it, simply because you qualified your position with "I am not excusing it."

      IMPLICITLY and despite your insincere qualifiers (insincere because everything else in the post suggests otherwise), your post argues for more sympathy for Psy. As another comment posited, if the purpose of your post is to encourage greater mutual understanding, then this is so banal and general in its formulation that it is almost meaningless. Of course, people should make more effort to understand each other. And to be clear, I don't think you are saying the latter, so therefore it must be the former.

      So what happens when we look at Psy's comments vis-a-vis Korean/US military relations? Ultimately nothing, because wishing a slow and painful death on Americans doesn't jibe within that context. Post 9/11, a few Americans really really rate Arabs, more than they did before. No surprise there. A small number from that lot might spew racist things about all Arabs or resort to violence. I don't need to reexamine anti-Arab American sentiment in the US in the 21st century to know the racist acts of a small minority are ignorant and vile and do not reflect upon the character of the whole. No larger context is needed. Those people are just assholes. (Can I say that? I assume most of the readers are adults here and I think that word expresses my feelings best.)

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    6. Korean, you mistook my question regarding the fairness of a double standard in Korea to putting words in your mouth, which I did not do. You could have just replied that neither is right and expressed your thoughts on the matter. In any event, I'm not here to parse words.

      You're right. You did technically say that Psy's action was not justified. It just would have been more believable if you had provided the other half of the context - whether Koreans are justified in their anti-American sentiments. You normally do this so I can only assume you were time pressed given the "quick" response to this matter or you actually believe that Koreans are justified in their feelings.

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  29. While we're on the topic of ignorance, let's discuss a few cases that I witnessed from Korea to balance our your comment about ignorant Americans. (1) Mad Cow Deaths - There were no Mad Cow deaths reported from the US or in Korea from US beef. Instead, a Korean woman died of Mad Cow Disease because she received a brain transplant with a cow tissue. And yet, with such vitriol lashed against the US during these anti-beef demonstrations, you would think US beef killed thousands of Koreans. (2) Tank Incident - Arguing that Korea had jurisdiction over the case is one thing but do Koreans know why the soldiers were acquitted? Mechanical failure in the tank maybe? Was there evidence that US military court wrongfully acquitted soldiers who should have been found guilty of negligent homicide? (3) The Korean government wants the US there. If they want the US troops out, they should be demonstrating against their own government, not advocating the slow torture of American civilians. (4) While we're on the subject of torturing civilians, I suppose the evil American empire forced Korean marines to slaughter little Vietnamese children after luring them out of their hiding place with candy? http://www.scribd.com/doc/8616826/Americas-Rented-Troops-South-Korean-Mercenaries-in-Vietnam (this is a historical documentation of the atrocities committed by Koreans against innocent civilians in Vietnam in return for blood money that helped Park Chung Hee build Korea into the industrial powerhouse it is today. I know the President apologized but I don't believe enough has been done in the form of reparation; just as enough hasn't been done by Japan to compensate the comfort women in Korea. With regard to Iraq War, Korea had 1 combat death while its company won a $2.77 billion contract to build diesel power plants. And although the beheading of the Korean missionary was unspeakably tragic, Korea doesn't seem to realize that Korea sent its troops there not to help the U.S. but mainly to enjoy the spoils of war. (5) As for the Korean War, if you ask students in Korea today, many of them will tell you that they're not grateful to the US because they believe we only intervened for our self-interest. Right, because so many countries are willing to sacrifice 100,000 of its finest just to be nice. When was the last time Korea was willing to lose thousands of its men for an altruistic purpose? (6) Oh, and let's not forget the Nazi bars and the Hitler ads and the negative portrayals of black people on variety shows. Only in Korea will you see people eating in front of a photo of emaciated, tortured Holocaust corpses sprawled outside a gas chamber. And the response you get is "But at least [the Nazis] dressed well."

    As a Korean American, I am shocked and embarrassed by Psy's past actions. Korea is my mother land - a place of my childhood and whose people I love dearly. But Korea really must stop blaming others for all of its ills. Korea is in desperate need of some self-reflection.

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    1. Helen...just a couple of days ago I read a piece in I think Seoul Beats about Korea and their strenuous efforts to import their entertainment and cultural gifts abroad, especially to the U.S. This blogger suggested that at home the South Korean people, their media and often their government needed a serious attitude check about foreigners living in country. I believe the tally is somewhere approaching 2 million now. Seems foreigners are not treated any better there than they are here. This writer was suggesting that if Korea wants to move into the next phase of their growth as a nation they are going to have to decide that they can't have their cake and eat it too. (His words) They will not be able to sell their product abroad if they treat the rest of the world with contempt like some mark in a confidence scheme. (Not his words mine.)

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    2. What Helen said, lol.

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  30. Is something said by a Korean rapper that important? Aren't people just overreacting? Do we Korean Americans really have to be embarrassed by what he said years ago? I'll go ahead and say that I don't care. People in general (artists especially among them) say and do stupid **** all the time.

    And, @Foreign Girl in Korea, I live in the US and I've been called a 'f---ing chink' for no reason whatsoever by Americans who can't control their emotional reactions. I've already got nasty looks for looking Asian and I've been told many times to 'go back to my country'. And I'm a f---ing American!

    I know Korea can be a nasty place at times, but they don't have the monopoly on stupidity.

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  31. I didn't see that meaning. I must admit I didn't see past his comical dance steps. This is a new point of view for me. A very different perspective in the song.

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  32. Thanks for giving this incident some context. Like you said, it doesn't excuse what PSY said, but it does give insight into why such a song was written and performed at the time, and why it was considered acceptable by the public.

    Sadly most Americans are so ignorant of anything that happens outside their borders and so deluded about how the rest of the world perceives them that I don't see anything changing anytime soon. Incidents like this will probably continue to happen, and Americans will continue to be shocked and hurt (as they should be) and completely at a loss as to why anyone would have negative feelings about wonderful people like us (which they shouldn't be).

    I don't comment often, but I always enjoy your blog. Thanks for your hard work!

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  33. Anisa, I don't think most Americans are as ignorant as people think. It's not that we don't know why people around the world hate us; it's that we can't do anything about it and, in many instances, it's more complicated than people believe. Think about it - for American taxpayers, we pay a shit load of our tax dollars giving aid to Pakistan who harbor terrorists; invading Iraq even though many of us opposed it and even demonstrated (and those who were initially for it were duped by the Neocons with their whole WMD progaganda); sending troops in Vietname even though many people opposed it back then; giving money to rebuild Japan after they tried to invade our country; giving money here, giving money there, giving money everywhere... and meanwhile, the middle class can't afford basic necessities these days.

    America is screwed if we do; screwed if we don't. We got flak for ignoring Uganda but got flak when we got involved in Somalia. Everyone complains about us being the police but then blame us when the police is not around.

    People blame us for intervening in world affairs but it was exactly this kind of police mentality that caused the UN and the Truman administration to send troops to Korea to repel the North Korean attack. Thank God it did, for my sake. Although I consider myself liberal-leaning, it really does make me nauseous when Americans whine about how bad America is. Obviously, our leaders are doing something right if we are able to live free of poverty and war on our soil. Other people haven't had that luxury. Just ask older Koreans who lived under colonial Japan and had to live through the Korean War.

    Do people really expect the most powerful country on earth to be better? Do they really think that Korea, if it ever becomes the most powerful country on earth, would be kinder?

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  34. Yesterday and today I got spanked by a group of people on Facebook because I took the same stance as The Korean. Now I'm some evil anti-American that hates our troops. Some of those people didn't seem to understand the difference between North and South Korea anyway. Several of them claimed to have served in the military or produced offspring that now serve. One silly woman suggested that they start a boycott of AAFES until they pulled Psy's CDs from the shelf. Does AAFES even carry PSY's CD? It was bizarre. They really got their panties in a bunch. I tried to apologize for upsetting people but of course I didn't really mean it and they knew it. I was just afraid they would ruin their keyboards with all the spittle. Many of these people have decided that they will accept no criticism of the U. S. and it's military under any circumstances. Oh well, I think that is a very dangerous attitude to take. No amount of reasoning will sway them, most of them did the same thing to me as what's been happening here with The Korean. They accused me writing things that I didn't. I went back and looked again just to make sure. Most of the time I was very clear and concise about what I had to say. Somehow when I said "the U.S. military is like any large government entity. It often suffers from the same problems, entrenched thinking, bureaucratic paralysis, and hubris." they read...screw our piece of shit troops, American sucks...blah...blah...blah...Oh and by the way did I vote for anti-Christ Obama. The first couple of posts were fairly comical to me, then it started to get a little spooky. You never really know, maybe they identify with Psy's comments so strongly because of their own violent hatred of anything non-American.

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  35. "First, I don't see how contrasting "fuck these people" with "Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers ... Kill them all slowly and painfully" is splitting hairs. Former is a dismissive, angry rant while the latter is an instigation of torture against innocent people."

    "Of all the objections, this is the one that I find the most mystifying. It is as if people have never been angry and said much more than what they meant to say."

    I think there's a huge difference between these two sentiments. Have I said something in anger that I regretted later? Of course I have. But even on my worst day I have never advocated the death and torture of someone's daughter or mother. And I imagine the majority of people in this world have not either. This is not the type of language decent men say. It both shocks and disappoints me greatly.

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  36. This whole comment section reminds me of the very excellent classic movie "12 Angry Men". Especially the part where they're arguing about the defendant's use of the word "I'm gonna kill you!", and one of the jurors exclaiming the same thing to Henry Fonda and Fonda going "You don't *really* mean you'll kill me, do you?"

    Yes, you guys are totally right. What Psy really meant was that his audience should organize into death squads, go to America, and murder the family members of the US Servicemen. Exactly.

    As someone who has a lot of friends who are in the military, I'm really glad that "Support our Troops" sentiment has become the social norm of this country. But like any sentiments, some people just take it to the extreme.

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    1. Thank you Bummy Korean guy my point exactly...if you need to get outraged over something let it be something or someone that has the power or the inclination to ACT on those words. This just reaches a level of silliness that makes my brain feel numb. Don't these people think that if S.Korean death squads were going to start killing off U.S. military families they would have done that by now.

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  37. Excellent movie, agreed. Although I don't see how it makes sense to compare a spur of the moment, reactionary, angry rant in front of a few people WITH carefully constructed lyrics advocating the slow torture of mothers and children that the lyricist knew would be performed in front of thousands of people who already felt resentment against the target group. It's like arguing that heat-of-the-moment manslaughter and premediated, first degree murder are the same thing.

    The rest of the world didn't see Hitler as a threat until his followers got caught up in the movement and we know the rest. What about KKK hate speech? Is that okay or is that not okay because they are not enterainers? Not to argue that Psy is a Hitler-like force; after all, he is just an entertainer. But entertainers have the ability to sway people's thoughts and emotions and a line must be drawn somewhere. If your point is that Psy didn't really mean what he said, then he should have chosen his words more carefully (such as "Get the hell out Americans") rather than to capitalize on appealing to people's sense of hate. Just because Koreans didn't rise up to kill Americans doesn't mean that he shouldn't be held accountable for his words.

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  38. Wow, great discussion here.

    People also have to keep in mind that Psy rapped about this eight years ago when he was in his mid-twenties. He was young then. He has since said that his words were not appropriate.

    South Korea needs the U.S. as a means of defense against South Korea, but be that as it may, it doesn't make it any easier to live with these military forces, for the reasons that The Korean has pointed out. Rappers and artists are known for putting their emotions into words. Sure, his words were inappropriate, but should something raw and emotional like that be held against him forever? It's not as if he built bombs in his kitchen and actually attacked and killed U.S. soldiers.

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    1. I tried arguing the same point on FB ...that he was young and passionate and already anti-establishment because that's the nature of the music he writes. Buzzz....didn't work. You know how it is these days in the U.S. culture. Everything comes with a price. Every small slight, every large insult, sexual slip, accident, youthful mistake and on and on MUST BE PUNISHED. That's the nature of our rugged individual, every man for himself, personal responsibility society we've created. No one gets a pass, be it putting mentally challenged people on death row to limiting a woman's access to birth control so they won't have sex, this society expects us all to be perfect or pay for it. Makes you nostalgic for a time when a traffic accident got you ticket instead of an indictment or if you got in trouble in school you got time out instead of juvenile detention. It's really insane, you can't just be human and make a mistake, or think one way 8 years ago but have changed your mind now.

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  40. Hi Korean,

    Thanks for the article about this, it helps put into perspective how's Psy's mind was like when he wrote those lyrics.

    My question is, why does anybody even care ? I like Psy because his music is good, I don't care if he eats meat or he's not a vegetarian.

    Why are lyrics from like 5 to 10 years ago, so news worthy? Would this have happened if Psy wasn't Korean ? Would it have happened if he was British ?

    Is this subtle racist news reporting that we are getting from these news organization ?

    Why are people so angry ?

    I believe that if you liked his song, and then you came to know about these comments and then didn't like his song, then maybe you didn't like the song to begin with, but liked it because everyone else liked it, and now that Psy is considered "anti-american" all of a sudden it's uncool to like his song, so as the sheep you are, you don't like it.

    That's my take on this whole situation anyways.

    (Imagine if LMAO, was uncovered to have lyrics to a song about Killing People In America, would people be up in arms about ? I don't think so. _)

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    1. Brits are blasted for even a hint of a sneer or a jab at Americans. So there is a racist double standard here but it works in the opposite direction to what you think.

      Or maybe it's that people (in the West anyway) get worked up over minor slights more than serious verbal attacks? I blame postmodernism. And the corporate media. They're always reliable blamees.

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  42. People should stop pretending that the discipline among the US military men stationed in Asia has not been a huge problem. The rape incidents, abandonment of women and children, and rising crime rate is just a proof of this. This isn't exactly a surprise since the quality of people who are being recruited into the military has been drastically lowered after 9/11. People don't seem to realize that the crime rate among the US military men station in both Korea and Japan have gone up drastically in the last ten years. The troubling trend is that many of these crimes are of violent nature such as the high profile rape incidents in Korea and Japan. As one of the commenters said the easiest solution to fixing this problem would be to put all US military men under lockdown in their bases just like they do to us ROK soldiers. When I served in the ROK military other than getting paid this was the biggest difference between Korean soldiers and US military. We are stuck in the base 24/7 and are never let out unless we get a leave once every few months while US military men are let out of their bases freely to cause problems that young men cause. Locking them up like Korean soldiers would drastically reduce the crimes that are committed by US military men against Korean citizens but it would definitely come at a high finacial cost for the business owners who cater to these soldiers near the military bases.

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  43. BEST analogy of the PSY story and USFK presence in S Korea. Too bad no one even remembers or cares about PSY's anti-US rant.

    Next time some S Korean stirs up some anti-US stuff, I will make sure to point them to this blog.

    Yeah, how would American or New Yorkers react to a foreign army being stationed in the Central Park?

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    1. What if it was there to protect you from the Russians, say?

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  44. I strongly disagree with the statement that "that U.S. played a vital role in securing freedom in South Korea. Without USFK, there is no free Korea." Noam Chomsky spoke on this vital and not widely known historical truth concerning Korea:

    WOMAN :Could you say a few words more about the origins of the Korean War? I take it you don’t accept the standard picture that it began when the U.S. moved to block a Communist expansionist invasion.
    NC: Well, the fact of the matter is that the Korean War is much more complex than the way it’s presented in mainstream circles. In this case, incidentally,the scholarship is considerably better than is usual, and if you look at the serious monograph literature on the Korean War, you’ll see that a different position is presented than the one we always hear.
    The 1950 North Korean attack on the southern part of the country was really the tail end of a long war. In fact, before North Korea attacked the South in 1950, already about 100,000 Koreans had been killed—that’s something we forget.
    What happened in Korea is essentially this. When the American forces landed in 1945 at the end of World War II, they found that an already functioning local government had been set up. There had been an anti-Japanese resistance, and it had established local administrations and Peoples’ Committees and so on, all over North and South Korea. ( In other words, democratic movements had already begun establishing themselves, Koreans were already creating their freedom northern region and south).


    Well,when the United States moved into the South, we dismantled all of that, destroyed it by force—we used the Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese, and in fact even reinstituted the Japanese police to destroy it all [Japan had occupied Korea for 35 years until its defeat in the Second WorldWar]. And that led to serious conflict in the South, a rather bitter conflict which went on for four or five years with a lot of people killed, and also there was a lot of cross-border fighting at the time (going both ways, incidentally). Then there was sort of a lull, and then came the North Korean attack going south.
    So there was definitely a North Korean attack, but it was an intervention by the North into the South after the United States had suppressed the anti-Japanese resistance movement in a civil war. Now, that puts a slightly different color on it than the standard line we hear.
    For example, if some country were—let’s say—to conquer the western part of the United States, and there was resistance against that conquest,and then the resistance was suppressed with say a hundred thousand people killed, and then the Eastern part of the United States “invaded” the Western part, that wouldn’t be just an invasion: that would be a little too simple.And something like that happened in Korea.

    ---------------------
    Also, if you examine U.S. foreign policy and military behavior elsewhere as in Vietnam, Indonesia's Sukarno, how they handled the Philippines, where they first "helped" the Filipinos resist their Spanish colonial power in the Spanish-American war, only to ignore and deny their own independence ceremonies and democratic election to enforce themselves in the country causing the Philippine-American War.
    This behavior suggests regardless of the reason, U.S. does not respect democratic free governance in countries they occupy.

    Also we cannot forget things like No Gun Ri, Bodo League Massacre, their support of Chun Doo Hwan and his subsequent Kwangju oppression. There's more but basically, U.S. should get out of Korea.

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    1. These facts about Korea are fairly well known. Similar things happened in Italy and Greece after WW2. In Italy the resistance, largely communist, liberated the north from the Nazis 3 weeks before the allies got there and had started running the place before the Allies stopped them. In Greece the local, again communist or left-libertarian anarchist, forces were suppressed by violence by occupying British forces after the end of the war. As in Korea, I believe the democracies enlisted the support of former fascists or fascist collaborators.

      Anyway, now the daughter of one of those former Japanese collaborators is President of SK...

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    2. excuse me? no, wrong. the Korean Independence Activists were NOT "Communist" but rather NATIVE Koreans that were merely fighting against Japanese colonialists. Korea was fresh from being a hermit kingdom pretty much. There was hardly any communism/marxist knowledge, do NOT label Korean things with your western-centric mind. It was NOT Communist but a pure Korean democratic independence movement. Just like when the Filipino people were protesting against Spain then U.S. occupation, it was NOT communist but native citizens democratic movement.
      Don't twist and label Korean history to try to fit your definitions.

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  45. I did not in fact label the Korean Independence Activists communist, if you read my post again. The point I'm making is there have been many such independent democratic nationalist movements in history in various times and various places, and they have been repressed. Historically, some have called themselves 'communist', some have not, but, regardless, they have been labelled as such by the western democracies seeking to discredit them; however, it was not my intention to discredit the Korean movement of that time by association. Don't assume I am being 'western-centric' or assume you know what my definitions are.

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  46. Americans simply don't understand how much the world hates them. PSY wasn't the first and not the last. For as long as the US interfere on countries with strong national identities like...pretty much every country in the world, and never taking responsibility for their actions, instead continuing to believe that others hate Americans because of the freedom and democracy (which let's be honest, many analysts have compared the US to Nazi Germany when it comes to freedom and democracy. Depending on the analyst, US is either identical or worse than Nazi Germany), people will still continue to be mad at them.

    However, despite the majority of the people in the world hates Americans (fact), few are vocal, and even fewer take actions against US. Hating Americans is one thing, but what if someone actually "killed the motherfucking Yankees"? PSY would be responsible for murder. So, it might have not been the one to do it, he still would be responsible for it. What if many launched against the "motherfucking Yankees"? It's hard to obtain guns in Korea, the US soldiers would make a blood bath out of Koreans. I'm glad things didn't escalate.

    Unfortunately, the best thing to do is not falling at the level of those disgusting US soldiers (not all US soldiers are like that). I'm not Korean, but I understand how Koreans would feel. Still, PSY apologized, let's not make things worse now.

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  47. Helen Melon 12/10/2012 11:53 PM
    While we're on the topic of ignorance...

    Sorry, my reply button isn't working.
    Helen Melon, help me understand your argument. If a faction commits a wrong they have no right to protest/prevent future unjust acts??!? So If Koreans do something they shouldnt complain when someone else does it? So all the Caucasians in the US shouldn't complain about Afro-Americans commiting crimes in the US right?

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  48. Helen Melon12/12/2012 11:34 AM
    Excellent movie, agreed...
    "What about KKK hate speech?"

    Actually Helen Melon, hate speech in general is protected by the First Amendment. Barring a direct order to attack or facilitate a crime against any person/group.

    (5) As for the Korean War, if you ask students in Korea today, many of them will tell you that they're not grateful to the US because they believe we only intervened for our self-interest. Right, because so many countries are willing to sacrifice 100,000 of its finest just to be nice. When was the last time Korea was willing to lose thousands of its men for an altruistic purpose?

    Geez Helen. "According to the data from the the United States Department of Defense, the U.S. suffered 33,686 battle deaths, along with 2,830 non-battle deaths during the Korean War and 8,176 missing in action." 2nd of all Altruisitc??? C'mon. So the US didn't have kill Red fever? The US didn't want to secure a land port ally on the steps of China/USSR?

    Helen I like you. Stay naive kid.

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  49. I know I'm late this article, but I just found your extremely well written blog this week. Thanks for continuing to write.

    There were several comments (I assume from fellow US citizens) that suggest the US military remove itself from the Peninsula. This appears to me to be a response to some commenters' perceived ingratitude of the Korean people towards US support, and furthermore it appears that these commenters view our military presence in Korea as a charitable, selfless venture. I would argue that the people who create and execute US foreign policy view our military presence in Korea (and Japan, Germany, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc) as strategic positions in securing global US hegemony first and foremost. In other words, the relationships S. Korea & other countries have with the US is not one of supplicant-patron. The US maintains an outsize influence over the foreign & military policy of both natural resource heavy economies & advanced industrial economies because of our military presence in those countries.

    Furthermore, these countries continue to be large customers of the US Military-Industrial Complex, which itself hold significant sway over US policy. Israel, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and many other countries are major customers US made weapons. Often times, these countries are bankrolled by the US government itself in the forms of loans or "aid" to help these countries buy more weapons from US manufacturers. Needless to say, these sales directly benefit the US weapons manufacturers, and it is in the interest of these manufacturers that weapons orders keep coming in. The projection of US military power overseas in the form of missions & permanent military bases also serves as excellent advertisement for the US Military-Industrial Complex.

    The recent ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is a perfect example of the special & self interest that drives US military & foreign policy. Consider the refusal to classify the Egyptian military's removal of Morsi as a coup; the US government is prevented from giving military aid to governments undergoing a military coup. If the US cuts aid to Egypt, Lockheed's $2.5 Billion contract to supply Egypt with F-16's could not be fulfilled. As a pmk812 stated above, these intricacies should raise questions for those who would believe US foreign & military policy are driven solely, or even primarily, by altruistic intents.

    On a tangential note, I would highly recommend A People's History of the United States to all of my fellow US citizens. As the Noam Chomsky interview cited by mockavel above makes clear, there is much unacknowledged history that would give us a better understanding why the present is the way it is.

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  50. Yeah, we are ALL guilty. Not one of us has a past or present free of blood on our hands or oppression. Violence breeds violence simple as that. At some point we will have to say that enough is enough or not, who knows.

    It seems in this article people want to "understand" hatred, I refuse. I do not care about current conflicts why, when and where. I understand it is going on and emotional reactions to it are natural.

    Violence was not invented by the US nor is the US military more tyrannical then other military's in the past. It would be nice if the world decided to let the past be the past and create a peace love and harmonious future that protects individual freedom of choice. I have no faith in that. So we can understand feelings all we want it is not going to change the past.

    They say no one can ever take away your education no matter what they take from you. Well I think it is simpler then that. No one can take away your determination to love and smile; these are the true gifts of life. Hatred of anyone just allows them to rob you of that. I do not pretend to know where it all began or where it all ends. All I know is we are all guilty.

    RAPE is a massive problem EVERYWHERE around the WORLD not just everyone's military but everywhere.

    I found this blog while looking for something about a cafeteria that serves hamburgers on Samsung's Digital City Campus. I have been told the walls are covered with Anti-American sentiment but I have not yet found anything on it. I was wondering if it was modern day propaganda or a relic from the past. I think it is something that US citizens who buy Samsung products would be interested in.

    This isn't just about lyrics from a band and where they came from. It is about where the country is going.

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