Ah, this is an emotionally complex issue. But after researching a lot of sides of this issue, and after having covered and thought about this issue for more than 4 years, talking with both left-wing activists and right-wing nationalists, I've deliberated on this quite a bit. After taking a look at this video I just saw on the Marmot, it's focused me into a resolution.
But first let me remind you where I'm coming from. I'm a died-in-the-wool liberal with no illusions of what American interests in Korea are and have always been. Millions of dollars in American money in terms of grants, loans, and military protection have gone into developing Korea as a bulwark against Cold War-Communism and the expansion of America's "sphere of influence."
I have no illusions about that, so I don't feel Koreans have to be "grateful" forever and bow down at the knees of the American empire. And Americans shouldn't be under the impression that the US gave two craps about Korea other than after it fell into America's set of interests as the Cold War started getting hot.
But now, with young people saying that they feel closer to North Korea than the US, and Americans are blamed for every social ill that can be heaped upon them – American soldiers aren't saints, but the distortions spread in the Korean media are simply beyond any notion of basic professionalism or fairness – both American soldiers have just become a big punching bag for bad American policies.
So I think it's time to pull out and let Koreans handle everything on their own.
Whether this is feasible or not, especially with the politics of East Asian security and a looming arms race – I know, I know what people are going to say. You can save yourself some carpal tunnel – really, I do know. But I just wanted to say it.
On this level, I think it would be a good thing – the only thing left for Korea's "development" in terms of finally being able to guide the terms of its own identity and communal subjectivity, is America symbolically cutting off military aid. Once the "Yankees" have gone home, for better or for worse, "Korea" will finally be able to come full terms with its own agency, sense of national responsibility, and make the final symbolic step that no one other than "itself" is preventing itself from taking: calling itself a 선진국 (developed country) and really see itself as making its own decisions.
On my selfish American level, I cringe when I see a Korean activist turning over American tanks and dragging themselves on the uniforms of American soldiers who don't want to be here any more than Koreans want them here.
I think a clean break would be better for everybody involved. The American taxpayers will save themselves some money and Koreans will finally be able to assert the pride about which many Koreans always speak so glowingly. And frankly, Korea is of the mindset that it bristles at America holding the power to make command decisions in times of war when most of the big guns and bombs and planes and destroyers aren't being paid for by the Korean taxpayers, but the American ones.
I agree with the activists, but for different reasons. But our conclusions are the same.
America out of Korea!
Let's pack it up!