South Korea views the United States more favorably than almost every other country in the world, but history has proven that such goodwill is conditional.
In 2002, a U.S. Army armored vehicle driving on a road in Yangju struck and killed two South Korean girls. As much as the incident itself, the Army’s perceived indifference led to nationwide protests, influenced national elections and left a majority of the country viewing the U.S. unfavorably, according to a Pew Global Attitudes survey released the following year.
The Army’s shift to an “apologize first and determine the details later” approach is one legacy of that 2002 tragedy, when officials generally declined comment while the investigation proceeded.
Flash forward to March 29, when a 105mm training round punctured a roof and ricocheted into a field in a village near the sprawling Rodriguez Range complex, about 15 miles from Korea’s Demilitarized Zone.
Within hours, a two-star general went to the village to make amends, 8th Army officials told Stars and Stripes. The Army cut a check for the homeowner’s inconvenience on the spot, while South Korean soldiers fixed the roof.
Military officials emphasize a long list of safety procedures at Rodriguez Range. Nevertheless, incidents have occurred there periodically over decades, according to local officials.
Although none of the more recent incidents has caused any deaths, the question remains: If another Yangju-type tragedy occurred, would the U.S. face the same severe backlash?