For decades, there have been anti–U.S. demonstrations in South Korea. And each time I wonder the same thing: Do these people have any idea what that living hell known as North Korea is like? Do these people understand that the United States is the reason they are so free and prosperous, completely unlike their fellow Koreans who had the horrible luck not to be liberated by America? Do these people know how many Americans died to enable them to be free?
Whenever I confront someone who claims that America’s wars abroad were fought for economic gain or to extend its alleged imperialist empire, I ask the person about the Korean War: What imperialist or economic reasons were there to fight in that country?
The answer I most often receive is, “Frankly I don’t know too much about the Korean War.” And it’s a good thing for the critics of America’s wars that they don’t know much about the Korean War. If they did, they would either experience cognitive dissonance or have to severely modify their position on America.
Just five years after a war-weary America celebrated the end of World War II, Americans were asked to fight the successor evil to Nazism — Communism — in Korea, a country most Americans could not identify on a map. In an earlier version of what happened in Vietnam, the Soviet Union and China backed a Communist attempt to take over the southern half of the Korean peninsula — the northern half had been Communist since the end of World War II — and install a Stalinist tyranny over the non-Communist southern half.
Over 36,000 Americans died in America’s successful attempt to keep South Korea from becoming Communist. And another 92,000 were wounded.
So, forgive me for the contempt I feel for South Koreans who demonstrate against the United States and for the two-thirds of South Koreans who, according to a 2002 Gallup-Korea poll, view the United States unfavorably. Whenever I see those anti-American demonstrators or read such polls, all I can think about are the tens of thousands of Americans who died so that South Koreans would not live in the Communist hell their fellow Koreans live in.