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Visions of the Future U.S.-Korean Security Relationship


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The December 2002 victory of progressive Millennium Democratic Party candidate Roh Moo-hyun reflected a shift in generations, a slippage in the power of the political right, a rise in the power of heretofore untapped populism, and the feeling that the US was ignoring South Korean concerns in dealing with the North Korea nuclear crisis.191 While the first three factors can be seen as indicators of the ongoing maturation of Korean democracy, the last is open to interpretation and was seen at the time as indicative of growing friction between South Korea and its most important ally. Korean grievances against the United States were a factor in the election. The weeks preceding the election were marked by South Korean protests over the handling of the deaths of two middle school girls who had been crushed by an American armored vehicle during summer maneuvers, and the subsequent acquittal by a U.S. military court of the two U.S. soldiers charged with negligent manslaughter. During the election campaign, President Roh was highly critical of the Status of Forces Agreement which, under most official circumstances, shields U.S. military personnel from the South Korean justice system. More than rival conservative Lee Hoi-chang, Mr. Rohs campaign managed to ride the wave of these strong feelings.192The anti-American protests over the SOFA resonated with a more fundamental question of the ROK-U.S. security relationship.



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