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Korean Americans Support Call for Seoul's Assistance

100 march in L.A. to back Bush in his request for troops to help in Iraq.

October 09, 2003|K. Connie Kang | Times Staff Writer

More than 100 Korean Americans, many wearing Army fatigues, marched in Koreatown on Wednesday to show their support for the Bush administration's request that South Korean combat troops serve alongside U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

During the noontime rally and march, members of the Coalition of Korean American Patriotic Organizations said that, as an ally of America for more than half a century, South Korea should dispatch soldiers to Iraq.

"There is a long-standing blood tie between Korea and America, because American soldiers shed their blood to protect the Korean people during the Korean War," said Ki-Ryang Kim waving a placard that read, "We Remember the Sacrifices of American Soldiers During the Korean War."

Kim said that the United States has nearly 40,000 troops in South Korea, and that it would be "reasonable" for South Korea to dispatch about 10,000 soldiers to Iraq.

A spokesman for the coalition, Yohngsohk Choe, said, "America is having a hard time now so, out of fraternal loyalty, Korea should come to its aid."

South Korea has nearly 700 engineers and medical personnel in Iraq.

The block-long march ended in front of the Korean Consulate on Wilshire Boulevard. There, representatives of the coalition, comprising 65 organizations including veterans of the Korean War, submitted a letter addressed to South Korean President Roh Myoo-Hyun, urging him to grant the U.S. request.

Consulate spokesman Min Ryu said the letter would be forwarded to the Seoul government. He said South Korea had been giving careful consideration to the U.S. request.

That request last month ignited heated debates on the Korean peninsula and in Los Angeles, home of the largest Korean settlement outside Asia.

On Sunday, North Korea condemned South Korea for even considering the request, characterizing it as a "reckless plan to sacrifice Koreans in the proxy war of the United States."

James Oh, a member of the Los Angeles chapter of the group Nosamo, said he opposes the proposal.

"There is no justification for the war in Iraq, other than U.S. interest in oil," he said. "Unless the United States itself is attacked, I don't think South Korean troops should be mobilized to help."

Some fear, he said, "that if Korea does not send troops, it won't get any after-war contracts. My answer is ... Korea does not need bloody, green bills."

As for gratitude for U.S. sacrifices, he said the United States "has to take a partial responsibility for the Korean War because it and the Soviet Union divided the Korean peninsula after Japan's surrender."

He also said that President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905 set the stage for Japan's 35-year colonization of Korea by signing the secret Taft-Katsura Treaty. In that pact, Roosevelt agreed give Japan control over Korea and Manchuria in exchange for Japan's promise not to interfere with the U.S. presence in the Philippines.

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