ROK Drop

Avatar of GI KoreaBy on January 1st, 2010 at 3:59 pm

The Top 10 Korean Stories of the Decade

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.

This chart shows by year the number of North Korean defectors have fled the country.

This chart shows by year the number of North Korean defectors have fled the country.

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.

Tags: ,
  • Unsatisfied LG DACOM
    9:36 am on January 1st, 2010 1

    No Gun Ri, while unfortunate, doesn't rank with any of these other issues. Also, Roh Muhyeon's election should be #3, at least. The 2000 summit and its false prospects for reunification stoked feelings that carried through to Roh's election, which then sent the country along a 6-year path of left-wing hooey.

  • Chris In Dallas
    10:10 am on January 1st, 2010 2

    Excellent choices!

  • Tom
    11:11 am on January 1st, 2010 3

    In my opinion, the top story of the decade is this commentary.

    It takes a black man to understand the dynamics of expat blogs in Korea. I'll get attacked here again. But I'm prepared for it, as always.

  • gerry
    12:42 pm on January 1st, 2010 4

    I agree, excellent choices.

  • Leon LaPorte
    7:51 pm on January 1st, 2010 5

    Good article Tom.

    This may surprise you but I agree with it. I know I bust on Korea quite often but as the author states I include the caveats some Koreans or many Koreans. You may be able to go back and find a post or two where it just says Koreans, but chalk to less than adequate typing skills and/or a few drinks.

    I have never uttered (or typed) the phrase “I hate Korea”. Happy 2010

  • pawikirogii
    1:07 am on January 2nd, 2010 6

    i can’t understand why you would leave out the k-wave. happy new year.

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    1:51 am on January 2nd, 2010 7

    No Gun Ri I added because it was the beginning of a continued effort by leftist historical revisionists to rewrite the history of the Korean War. Since then every year articles of extremely poor quality accusing the US of war crimes as well as the forming of the T&R Committee to further slime US veterans with.

    I put the US beef protests at third because of the extent and size of the protests. Plus a President elected in a landslide was nearly toppled by a bunch of lies just a few months after taking office.

    I put the 2002 armored vehicle accident ahead of Roh's election because he would not have been elected without that happening. That was the event that allowed him to squeak out the election win in my opinion.

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    1:59 am on January 2nd, 2010 8

    I didn't have a problem with the article either. Tom most people wouldn't be wasting what time they have reading this blog if they didn't have some liking or interest in Korea.

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    2:00 am on January 2nd, 2010 9

    Good point I think an argument could be made that the K-Wave should have been included. Have a happy New Year as well.

  • JohnT
    3:18 am on January 2nd, 2010 10

    Here's an article for ya Tom, it take a biracial korean to show how the majority of korean nationals are.

    You should continue to read and understand this expat blog and learn something Tom.

    I show everyone in the fifth dimension this one.

  • JohnT
    3:27 am on January 2nd, 2010 11

    Here's some hate for ya Tom.

  • Chris In Dallas
    3:58 am on January 2nd, 2010 12

    Well, I do have a problem with this article! Tom, if you think this is the most important thing relating to Korea over the past 10 years, that's fine by me. Myers even makes a couple decent points. Much of the carping by expatriates in Korea boils down to things in Korea are different than what they are used to. That is silly.

    Here is my problem. Mr. Myers tells us the debate of "what is wrong with Korea" should not involve anecdotal evidence, generalizations or prejudices. Then he peppers his article with generalizations, personal prejudices and lack of anything except anecdotal evidence. It would have been simpler for him to have just said we should stay away from icky subjects and not use examples he finds inconvenient.

  • Teadrinker
    2:56 pm on January 2nd, 2010 13

    I wasn't in Singapore or Tokyo when it was supposedly happening, but you gotta take whatever the Korean media says with a grain of salt, especially when it comes to Korean celebrities and nationalism.

  • Archie B
    5:01 pm on January 2nd, 2010 14

    Tom,instead of stewing over someone’s newspaper column, why don’t you write and submit a response? That’d be easier and cheaper than paying for the ulcer you are developing over the original article.

  • Adam Cathcart
    1:22 am on January 3rd, 2010 15

    Thanks for including #8 — the Koreans in Afghanistan story could easily be lost in the shuffle, but you had the right perspective to bring it through. All in all this is a significant post that I, for one, could enjoy for a few days if a person takes the time to explore the many links you included.

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    3:09 am on January 3rd, 2010 16

    I can tell you from personal experience that the Korean dramas were big in Malaysia and Singapore. My family friend from Burma also told me the K-dramas were really popular there as well. However, let me emphasize "were" because they are not nearly as popular now as they once were.

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    3:15 am on January 3rd, 2010 17

    Thanks Adam, the missionaries I had on my short list to post simply because of the pro-longed nature of the hostage crisis and how a band of thugs like the Taliban were able to make the Korean government look quite weak and alter their foreign policy.


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