Americans think of South Korea as one of the most pro-American of countries, but in fact many Koreans hold harsh and conspiratorial views of the United States. If not, why did a single U.S. military traffic accident in 2002 cause hundreds of thousands of Koreans to take to the streets for weeks, shredding and burning American flags, cursing the United States, and harassing Americans? Why, too, the death threats against American athlete Apolo Ohno and massive cyberattacks against the United States for a sports call made at the Utah Winter Olympics by an Australian referee?
These are just two of the incidents detailed in David Straub’s book, the story of an explosion of anti-Americanism in South Korea from 1999 to 2002. Straub, a Korean-speaking senior American diplomat in Seoul at the time, reviews the complicated history of the United States’ relationship with Korea and offers case studies of Korean anti-American incidents during the period that make clear why the outburst occurred, how close it came to undermining the United States’ alliance with Korea, and whether it could happen again.
Anti-Americanism in Democratizing South Korea is recommended reading for officials, military personnel, scholars, students, and business people interested in anti-Americanism, U.S.-Korean relations, and U.S. foreign policy and military alliances.
David Straub has been associate director of the Korea Program at Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center since 2008, following a thirty-year diplomatic career focused on U.S. relations with Korea and Japan.
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