Well I got an email from my cousin Adam awhile back and he asked some good questions so I thought I’d share them and my response-which is obviously my opinion and I’m sure there are others out there:
Are the Koreans welcoming of you as an American?
I wonder how the Koreans perceive the American military presence.
How do they feel about N Korea and the idea of reunification?
Are S Koreans aware of the human atrocities in the north?
As an American and as a foreigner I get a mixed response-I feel like I either get special, positive treatment or rudeness, like mean stares or people changing their spot on the bus to get away from me. Also people love to take pictures of you or shout “hello!” I can’t imagine running up to an immigrant in the U.S. and asking to have a photo with them but that happens a lot here. Koreans have not been exposed to a lot of foreigners.
I would say that South Korea really appreciates America for its help in WWII and fighting Japan (their arch-enemy and occupiers), and sees the U.S. as helping them gain independence from the Japanese. There is also a lot of love for for U.S. role in the Korean War.
What Koreans do not appreciate is soldiers behavior now. A few years back the military was accused of poisoning the local water supply with some army chemicals. I’m not saying that’s true, but their is a movie out called “Host” that uses the premise. In the movie a monster grows in the Han River because the American Army dumped a bunch of formaldehyde down the drain.
Also many bars have “No Military” on their doors because soldiers are known for letting their drunken behavior get out of hand. I get the impression many Koreans think crime is mainly caused by foreigners-not only the U.S. military but the SE Asian, Arabic and African immigrants as well.
I have heard they are moving the US bases in Seoul to somewhere further away.
South Koreans are aware of the atrocities of the North but people don’t really take action on it—there were Mad Cow protests for months but no protests over N. Korean refugee issues for example. There have been serveral stories since I arrived about North Korean refugees hiding in China and Thailand-being found and sent back to North Korea
Just this past week a S. Korean tourist in the North was killed by a North Korean soldier because she went off the trail. South Koreans were only allowed limited access during the last Presidential term, as it was seen as a way to foster a relationshipo between the countries (and I’m sure many hope reconciliation). Tours in the North are very limited and you will not get to see what daily life is like or interact with locals.
The S. Korean woman shot was touring “Diamond Mountain” (Kumgang) called one of the most beautiful in all of Korea. The S.Korean President has suspended all mountain tours until the North agrees to an investigation.
And yes, not that I can speak for all Koreans but many say there is only one Korea and believe the country will be reconciled eventually. At a soccer match one month ago between S and N Korea, at the end a group held up a giant flag with an image of one Korea, in blue–a color representing peace.