Sunday, September 18, 2005

Now the US Newspapers are starting to follow this story. The LA Times writter, who I have quoted upon in the past, has written this story. This is from the Boston Newspaper

S. Koreans battle over MacArthur legacy

By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times | September 17, 2005

INCHON, South Korea -- General Douglas MacArthur can't be seen around these parts without his bodyguards.

The old soldier stands high on a bluff here looking out to sea, binoculars slung around his neck and an officer's cap perched jauntily on his head. In a cordon in front of him are several burly riot policemen, their shields raised in defensive posture. At least a dozen other officers, some in plainclothes with wires dangling in their ears, are fanned out around the flowerbeds, on the lookout for trouble.

For nearly half a century, a 16-foot bronze likeness of the late war hero has dominated a park near the shores where thousands of US troops under his command landed Sept. 15, 1950, to expel North Korean forces. It is considered one of the decisive battles of the Korean War, one that many here credit for the eventual success of the prosperous, free-market nation that is South Korea.

But not all. A movement to tear down the statue has been gaining momentum recently among some younger South Koreans, who call it a symbol of US occupation and oppression.

MacArthur, remembered for his quote that ''old soldiers never die, they just fade away," has hardly faded when it comes to the controversy surrounding his life and legacy.

On Sept. 11, more than 4,000 anti-MacArthur demonstrators armed with bamboo sticks clashed with an almost equal number of riot police.

From the sidelines, nearly 1,000 conservative defenders of the statue, many of them Korean War veterans, threw eggs and garbage at the protesters. Some blocked an ambulance carrying away injured protesters, screaming that communists didn't deserve to be rescued, witnesses said.

''We've had demonstrations here before, but this is the first they've turned violent," said Kim Kyeong Ho, a police official surveying the site Wednesday. ''There is a real clash of values going on. People consider him either a savior or a war criminal."

The protesters are led by a coalition of student and labor groups, including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union. Their argument is that the US effort in the Korean War was not so much an altruistic defense of South Korea's freedom as an attempt to gain hegemony over the region, and that it needlessly caused the division of the peninsula.

''It is time to reappraise MacArthur's role in history. If it were not for him, our country would not have been colonized and divided as it was," said Kim Guk Rae, a 40-year-old activist from Inchon who is one of the leaders of the movement.

Getting in on the act, a popular radical performer, Park Seong Hwan, whose song with an obscene reference to the US was the ballad of demonstrators during a string of anti-American protests in 2002, came out last week with a piece calling for the removal of the statue.

The drive to remove the statue has inspired a determined backlash. On Park's Web page, furious veterans have denounced the singer as an ''ungrateful commie" and suggested that he move to North Korea. Defenders of the statue are planning a major demonstration Thursday to mark the 55th anniversary of the Inchon landing, and police are girding for another brawl.

Even before the historical revisionism, MacArthur was a controversial figure in this country and at home.

He was removed from his command by President Harry S. Truman for insubordination in 1951 after he pressed to expand the war across the border into China, and some historians believe he needlessly prolonged the war.

Regardless of their feelings about MacArthur, many South Koreans seem to be deeply embarrassed by the clash on Sept. 11.

The wave of anti-American demonstrations in 2002, sparked by the accidental death of two schoolgirls hit by a US military vehicle, damaged South Korea's relations with the United States and its image abroad. Anti-Americanism is believed to be bad for business here, and many fear that a brouhaha over MacArthur will play badly with American conservatives.

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