This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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South Korea is famous worldwide for “Gangnam Style”, Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Kia, BTS, K-Drama, kim-chee, and KBBQ. Historically, it is also known for its desire for freedom, defeating socialism and becoming a prosperous republic. With the West flirting with weaving socialism into the fabric of its citizenry, now is a good time to remember the South Korean story. Rising from war-torn poverty, it has become a cultural and economic powerhouse.
From One War to Another
Through World War II and the 1950s, America was steeped in a battle of defending freedom. It fought to halt encroaching Communism and the USSR. The world watched the rise of lunatic-lead regimes bent on dominating the world, attempting to expand into neighboring countries. Encroachment was stopped by technology and science producing one of the most devastating weapons known to humankind — the atom bomb. It became the exclamation point that brought about the end of the second most devastating global conflict of human history.
In return, a new war started – the Cold War. An arms race, lead by the USSR and the US was in full swing. Each were trying to build the largest, baddest arsenal of nuclear weapons in order to strong arm the other. The term ‘superpower’ came into use. Other countries aspired to be one, too.
Meanwhile in East Asia, Communist China decided to mimic their USSR comrades. With Communist North Korean counterparts in tow, Chairman Mao’s army crossed the 38th parallel, invading the democratic South Korean state. They came in like a firestorm almost taking over the entire peninsula. South Korea needed help to be saved. Because WWII ended five years prior, America debated whether it was worth another battle. America decided and responded with troops landing in Busan and Incheon.
Korean War Stalemate
The Korean War was fierce. US troops would push back the Chinese troops, but China’s overwhelming manpower would force the American army back. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, switched between Communist and Democratic powers about five different times throughout the war. Ultimately, the US Military pushed the Communists back behind the 38th parallel to secure a stalemate. The stalemate agreement was that the North remained Communist while the South stayed democratic. Korea did not become a unified nation. The cost: Over 30,000 American lives lost, with no real victory for democracy.
After the Korean war, South Korea was ravaged and stricken with poverty. Life was extremely hard. Buying rice was near impossible. Meat was a precious and expensive commodity. American GI’s brought some goods with them like Spam and flour. These ingredients began to be intermingled into traditional Korean dishes. South Koreans learned to move forward because they were now free to do so.
America Invests in South Korea
To aid the rebuilding of South Korea, America began introducing ideas of government, industry, commerce, as well as military protection. As America thrived on a socio-economic level in the 1950s, South Korea by proxy was able to experience it, also. It is important to note that America did not impose upon the South Koreans to become Americanized Koreans. America’s investment was the opportunity for the country to recover.
And, while still holding onto their historic national heritage, recover they did. In the span of about 70 years, Korea is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Once a war-torn portion of the peninsula now houses some of the leading electronic and automotive companies to date.
Anyone in the last decade knows some of the cultural icons that have emerged from South Korea. The artist affectionately known as PSY garnered a few million views on Youtube of his hit “Gangnam Style”. It is an Ibiza-style, track heavy, 808 drum sample laden beat with repetitive synth riffs all dedicated to the posh trendy area of Seoul, South Korea’s capital city.
In the last two years, K-pop boy band phenom BTS appeared all over American television and 2018 American Music Awards. Some other K-pop artists garnering world attention are: SNSD (aka Girl’s Generation), SHINEe, BIGBANG, JYP, Lee Hyori, SuperJunior, Girl’s Day. Each have gained an extremely large global following prompting fan sites and clothing items after their beloved K-pop stars. In addition, there is a plethora of Korean variety shows, dramas, sitcoms, and movies.
Kim-Chee and K-BBQ
Another craze sweeping the West is “kim-chee”, the venerated fermented cabbage side dish. It has the world not liking the smell, but loving the flavor and begging for more. Dotting city landscapes across the US and abroad, from Detroit to Atlanta as well as from London to Singapore are Korean BBQ restaurants.
Korea: North Versus South
The picture of the Korean peninsula at night clearly shows which people are free and which are not. Half the peninsula is brightly lighted, while the other half is in darkness. This is true literally and figuratively.
In South Korea, people wear pretentious street clothes of Jordan sneakers and Supreme sweatshirts. South Koreans eat what they want. They can walk around Seoul or Busan or Daejeon at 2 am, drunk off Hite beer, smelling like soju. They can choose to work towards becoming the next K-Pop star. Maybe they will enroll in Seoul U or Korean Advanced Institute for Science and Technology. Graduates can be an engineer, doctor or financier. Attending university while studying International Relations can lead to becoming the United Nations Secretary General like Bang Ki Moon did. Whatever a South Korean desires, he or she can work hard and achieve it.
That does not happen in North Korea. Jobs are “provided”. Personal choice and advancement are practically non existent. Eating beef can be a crime punishable by death. The people are free though to starve equally.
South Korea: The Defense for Free-Market Capitalism
On an economic level, South Korea’s success could occur because the country and its people are free. Studying effects a free market capitalist society can or cannot have, one simply needs to look at the Korean peninsula. There, one sees the positive effects a free market capitalist, system mingled with democracy and freedom, truly have on a nation.
South Korea is the perfect case against socialism and by proxy, communism because they are theoretically on the same scale. Democrats promoting socialism like Congresspersons Ocasio-Cortez, Harris, Booker, Sanders are ripping apart the fabric of America. Ocasio-Cortez is not afraid to fully admit that if the Green New Deal is implemented, there is going to be government intervention. Perhaps to her, intervention is not a government takeover. Hear her say climate change is this generation’s World War II. Those who survived it and fought in it or any war would disagree.
Either way one looks at socialism, it ends in starvation and genocide. American voters must not follow the DNC’s lead. After socialism takes hold, and it reaches its logical conclusion, America will be as dark and lifeless as North Korea.
The best example against socialism and communism is South Korea. Americans would do well to remember our South Korean ally who showed the world that free market capitalism works best.