Turning Pro-American

South Korean conservative activists disp

Max Fisher spotlights South Korea, which had one of the lowest opinions of the US at the start of the millenium but now stands out as fervently pro-American:

As South Korea transitioned from military dictatorship to democracy, and from a poor rural country to an advanced urban society, Koreans started to feel “new stirrings of nationalism arising from their country’s rapid economic growth and political liberalization,” historian Jinwung Kim has written. That nationalism manifested, in part, as a rejection of “Korea’s ‘big brother,’ the United States,” Kim wrote. Research by Katherine H.S. Moon, an academic at Wellesley College, linked the “rejection of authoritarianism” and growing national consciousness to “resurgent nationalism” and a newly mainstream anti-Americanism. …

In the mid-2000s, though, South Korea started downgrading its Sunshine Policy [rapprochement with North Korea] and shifting back toward the U.S. Partly this was due to internal politics, which saw power shift from the pro-Sunshine left to the pro-American right. But North Korea also helped, reneging on past agreements, aggressively expanding its nuclear weapons program and, in the process, alienating South Korea and accelerating Sunshine’s demise.

(Photo: South Korean conservative activists display a US flag during a rally to support South Korea-US free trade agreement in Seoul on March 15, 2012. A long-delayed free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea took effect amid praises from their leaders but also sparking scattered protests. By Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)