A handful of key foreign policy issues dominated the response of many Koreans to the victory by Donald Trump in the US presidential election.
The biggest concerns surrounded the deployment of the US missile defence system known as THAAD on South Korean soil, the economy, and the effect on continued military ties. THAAD has been controversial as some believe its radar poses a hazard to health.
“Hey, Mr Trump,” commented a user named Park Tae-hwan on the news site Chosun Ilbo. “We will never pay for THAAD, don’t you ever try to deploy it here. But if you have to do so, get the money from Choi Soon-sil. She made the decision.”
Choi Soon-sil is the longtime friend of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, whose undue influence over the president has triggered the country’s worst political crisis in decades. Choi has been charged with abuse of power and fraud.
Prior to his election Trump had also talked about forcing South Korea to pay more for US military support, claiming that the United States gets “practically nothing compared to the cost” of keeping troops here, even though Korea pays more than US$800 million annually, making it cheaper for the troops to be stationed in Korea than in the US.
He’s also threatened to abandon free trade agreements with Korea. For these reasons, in a recent survey sponsored by South China Morning Post, Koreans expressed the lowest rate of support for Trump of any Asian nation surveyed, at just 3 per cent. But some Koreans, admittedly a minority, have voiced passionate support for him.
“Sir, I believed in you all the way,” wrote one online commentator on Ilbe.com, the website for a misogynistic, racist hate group of the same name. “Congratulations.”
Another Ilbe user wrote, “The new master! Worship him! Hurray, hurray!”
But most Koreans are too distracted by troubles at home – Choi-gate, a bruised economy, an ageing society – to worry about the election beyond what impact it might have on Korea, something that, despite Trump’s rhetoric, remains too early to tell.
“Stay calm,” one person with the username Hongjeonggi wrote on Chosun Ilbo’s site. “Most of the Korean press and media didn’t even really study but simply forecasted a win for Hillary … I don’t know what will happen in the future but if Trump pressures Korea, can we rely on the United States?”
A measured response, to be sure, though the user was certain of one thing: “Now the United States is not the old America.”