Imagine you live in Manhattan.
Now, imagine that, Central Park does not look like this ...
But instead, looks more like this.
For maximum emotional effect, imagine those soldiers looked really different from you. There are thousands of those soldiers in Central Park alone, and thousands more all over the state of New York. Also, there is no cross-town bus that goes through the Park. If you lived in Upper West Side and wanted to get to Upper East Side, you had to up all the way up to the 110th street and back down.
Now, think about the implications of having thousands of soldiers in the heart of your city. What would those young men do on their off days? They might visit a brothel. So now, imagine that Upper West Side, between 72th and 79th streets between Central Park West and Amsterdam, has nothing but seedy bars and whorehouses, with ladies soliciting business in the broad daylight, kind of like this:
But hey, there's more. After all, these are young men. And young men do dumb shit. Like, say, beating up a cab driver (and the NYPD officer that attempted to stop the beating.) Or breaking into a house and raping a young girl. Or rape, kill and brutally mutilate the body of a prostitute. Or (negligently or not, you can't prove it) run over young school girls with their armored car while getting to their training ground in White Plains. Suppose all those things happen once every two or three months. It's so bad that the commanders of those soldiers impose a nighttime curfew to stop those knuckleheads, but they just don't stop.
And worse yet, New York's law enforcement has no power over them. Once these soldiers return to inside of Central Park, NYPD can't even arrest them. Manhattan DAs can't prosecute them. New Yorkers have absolutely no power to do anything about these soldiers.
If you are a New Yorker in this situation, wouldn't you sometimes want to say: "FUCK THESE PEOPLE"?
This is the situation in Seoul. USFK is located in the heart of Seoul, through no subway or bus may pass. The area of Seoul around the base has been a giant, seedy ghetto. (Although, to be fair, the Itaewon area is currently experiencing a renaissance of sorts.) All the crimes described above -- from petty to horrifying -- actually happened, and are happening now. And until recently, Korean law enforcement had very little power to do anything about it.
Look, the Korean knows that the situation is more nuanced. (It always is.) He, as well as any Korean, is also aware that U.S. played a vital role in securing freedom in South Korea. Without USFK, there is no free Korea. Don't think Korean people are not grateful about that, because they are. The Korean is also aware that many in the USFK do a lot of good in Korea in the form of community service and volunteering. But they are not enough reasons for Koreans to grovel and let everything slide. Inevitably, some Koreans will make an outburst, sometimes publicly, sometimes as a song.
Does this excuse PSY's crude, anti-American lyrics? Of course not, just as much as USFK's good deeds do not excuse some GI's murders and rapes. The point is this: there is a dangerous level of ignorance among Americans as to just how shitty these American soldiers are behaving abroad -- in an allied country, no less! Consequently, there is also a dangerous level of ignorance among Americans as to just how much damage these shitty behaviors are causing to America's standing in the world. The Korean has previously covered this before in a post about how Koreans perceive the USFK, but it bears repeating: if we can't even keep ourselves from pissing off our allies, what hope do we have of turning our enemies to our friends? How can America be so good at exporting its cultural products, yet so terrible at maintaining good relationship with its friends?
The Korean will skip the factual history that led to PSY's anti-American outburst -- this Busan Haps piece, which sparked into a Washington Post story (and many more,) should be quite enough to give that background. (Note that it came in response to the war in Iraq, which was none too popular in the U.S. either.) Through this post, the Korean wants you, an American, to do what Americans are so bad at doing: thinking about what how things look from the other side, and trying to process why the world sees us the way they do. Then maybe we might understand why a goofy entertainer, who is otherwise content to rap about partying, came to write such angry lyrics.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.