In my prior posting yesterday I listed Top 10 stories in various categories for 2009. In this posting today, I have decided that in honor of the end of the first decade of the 21st century I figured I would go ahead and put together a list of the Top 10 Korea related stories of the decade. I think I got all the big stories of the decade, but if I missed any I am sure you all will let me know about it in the comments section. Anyway here is the list:
1. 2000 North/South Summit – We know today that the 2000 Inter-Korean Summit between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il would have never happened without the $500 million dollar bribe and that the North Koreans eventually reneged on most of their promises. With that said we should not forget how important and emotional this summit was at the time for the people of South Korea. The prospect of unification and peace on the peninsula as naive as that may seem today was very real back then and helped lead to further important events in the decade such as the increased aid to the North Koreans, which they used to develop their nuclear arsenal.
2. 2002 World Cup - South Korea co-hosted the first Asian World Cup with Japan and without a doubt Korea was the big winner from this World Cup with its massive fan turn outs to watch the games at public viewing areas as well as the almost miracle like success of the South Korean soccer team reaching the World Cup semi-finals. Most importantly the World Cup introduced us all to Shim Mina:
3. 2008 Cows Gone Wild – For the entire summer of 2008 downtown Seoul turned into a battleground by leftists trying to topple the recently elected conservative President Lee Myung-bak on the basis of the false mad cow scare. The protests eventually stopped due to the onset of monsoon season, crackdowns by police, and the fact that more information was coming to light on what a fraud the mad cow claims were.
4. 2002 Armored Vehicle Accident – With Korean nationalism at all-time highs due to the success of the South Korean soccer team, South Korean anti-US activists were able to turn public opinion against the US military in Korea through an elaborate media & Internet smear campaign combined with USFK bumbling in the aftermath of a tragic vehicle accident that killed two young Korean girls. The groups were able to mobilize huge crowds to protest the US military as well as attack US bases and even kidnap and assault soldiers. Ultimately this incident would forever change the relationship between the US and Korea as the process of troop draw downs and transformation of the US-ROK alliance would begin two years later.
5. The Election of Roh Moo-hyun – The now deceased former President of South Korea Roh Moo-hyun is largely thought of as an incompetent leader for the five years he ran the country, but the significance of his election should not be ignored. He was a political outsider without a college degree who through a populist campaign, the use of the Internet, and appealing to anti-American sentiment he was able to win a close election to become President of Korea.
6. 2006 North Korea Nuclear Test - Despite all the aid given to North Korea over the years to reform their economy and basically behave, the North Koreans went ahead and used the money to continue their military build up and pursuit of nuclear weapons. The nuclear test in 2006 and the second nuclear test in 2009 was all everyone needed to see that the Sunshine Policy was a failure. This failure would only further be emphasized when the North Koreans were caught proliferating nuclear technology to Syria.
7. Roh Moo-hyun Suicide – In the wake of corruption allegations that tarnished what little legacy Roh has while in office, he decided to commit suicide likely to stop the government investigators from continuing their investigation into his family.
8. Exodus of North Korean Refugees – Over the past 10 years a flood gate of North Korean defectors have been flowing out of North Korea into China where they have been able to then flow through a number of third countries on their way to mainly South Korea for asylum. Roughly 20,000 defectors have escaped from North Korea to South Korea over the past 10 years. The Chinese and North Korean governments have launched crackdowns in effort to stop the flow of refugees who often face the death penalty and sentences in the gulag back in North Korea if caught. The numbers of refugees have increased enough within South Korea that they have been able to organize and launch human rights groups protesting the North Korean government as well as defector radio stations broadcasting into North Korea.
8. Korean Missionaries Kidnapped & Killed In Afghanistan – In July 2007, 23 Korean missionaries were taken hostage in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Two of the hostages would eventually be executed as the country waited for weeks to see whether the Taliban would murder the rest of the hostages. While the wait continued anti-US groups within South Korea tried to take advantage of this tragedy to promote anti-Americanism within Korea. The South Korean government would eventually withdraw their token reconstruction taskforce from Afghanistan and pay the Taliban millions of dollars to release the remaining hostages. Both the ROK government and the missionaries would come under much criticism in the aftermath of this incident.
9. Deployment of the Zaytun Division to Iraq – After much domestic political fighting within Korea over whether or not to deploy ROK Army troops to Iraq the South Korean government finally gave the go ahead in 2004 to deploy thousands of ROK soldiers to Iraq called the Zaytun Division. Originally the US wanted the ROK Army to control their own sector of Iraq in the volatile Kirkuk region. The Korean government decided to decline and instead keep the soldiers cooped up on an airfield outside the safe Kurdish city of Irbil where the South Korean troops would go on to kill more Kurdish civilians than actual insurgents.
10. No Gun Ri – The year 2000 was the 50th anniversary of the Korean War and this was supposed to be the time that veterans of the “Forgetten War” were to receive their due recognition for their sacrifices like the World War II veterans did in the prior decade. However, the veterans that returned to Korea for the various 50th anniversary ceremonies were instead met with questions about whether they were war criminals due to the now debunked article written by Associated Press reporters accusing the US military of war crimes during the Korean War beginning with the death of civilians under a bridge near the village of No Gun Ri.
I hope everyone enjoyed my list and I hope all ROK Drop readers have a happy New Year.