Where Did South Korea Go Wrong?

As South Korea grapples with the issue of freedom of speech, some wonder where the country went wrong. The authorities have turned to a tangle of defamation and national security laws. South Korea seems to be having a Patriot Act moment. Human rights groups are concerned that the country is losing its freedom of speech. Here are some of the reasons why. Read on to discover what happened. Were South Koreans misled?

During the 1950s, South Korea maintained strong ties with the Soviet Union and China. South Korea’s economic growth was in contrast to North Korea’s drain on resources. Perhaps this is why Kim Il Sung reached out to South Korea. However, the public did not see any benefit from that approach. In fact, they favored a more adversarial approach, with the North threatening to close its border and withdraw from the alliance.

By the end of the decade, two new states had emerged on the Korean peninsula. The anti-communist dictator in the south, Syngman Rhee, enjoyed the reluctant support of the US government. His counterpart, Kim Il Sung, was more enthusiastically backed by the Soviets. Neither dictator was content to stay on one side of the 38th parallel, so border skirmishes were common. Tens of thousands of soldiers died in battle before the war officially started.

Many of the younger generation have expressed concern that reunification is unattainable. However, most South Koreans under the age of 40 view reunification as a noble humanitarian mission that should not be pursued if it’s not going to be possible. In January of 2022, Yoon Suk-yeol labeled the North as a “nemesis” and even discussed preemptive strikes against it. While these attitudes may be indicative of the current political climate, they can hinder the progress toward peaceful coexistence. Further, abandoning hopes of ethnic integration could lead to a wider psychological gap between the two Koreas.

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