ELIZABETH SOELISTIO WRITES – To support or not to support, that is the question when it comes to U.S. President Donald Trump’s 12-day visit to Asia. Nowhere is that more true than in South Korea.
As tensions between the United States and North Korea continue, many South Koreans have taken to the streets to protest Trump’s trip.
But not all Koreans are opposed to this visit, as a smaller group of pro-Trump supporters also filled the streets to welcome The Donald to the country. The pro-Trump crowd were mostly older, and carried signs saying “Welcome Trump” and “We believe in Trump” while chanting “USA!”
While the younger generations worry the rising tensions could lead to war, the older generations don’t seem to share this anxiety. “I want Mr. Trump to destroy Kim Jong Un,” said An Man Young, a 70-year-old Trump supporter.
With Trump standing right in front of North Korea, he warned Kim Jong Un to not continue his nuclear provocation and threats to strike the U.S. and its allies. “The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer, they are putting your regime in grave danger,” Trump said at South Korea’s National Assembly in Seoul.
But, this kind of provocation from Trump worries younger Koreans. Despite police attempts to block anti-Trump protesters, dozens rallied near South Korea’s presidential office as Trump’s motorcade passed through. With banners reading “Trump, NOT welcome!” and “NO Trump, NO War”, they believe provocation from Washington could lead to war that would cost lives of thousands or even millions in South Korea. They want the world and Trump to understand that South Koreans are not seeking a conflict.
“I want President Trump to know we do not want a war; a lot of the problems on the Korean Peninsula depend on him,” said Yoo Seung Hyun, a 32-year-old activist.
Trump’s Asia visit also exposes another side among the South Koreans in terms of ideology and generation gap. As the more conservative and older Koreans siding with President Trump to end the Kim Jong Un regime, the younger generations and more than three-quarters of South Koreans consider Trump just as dangerous.
“We oppose the visit to South Korea by Trump, who has heightened the fears of war on the Korean Peninsula,” read one protester from a statement.
To protect South Korea from the North, President Moon Jae-in has confirmed a plan to buy “billions of dollars” worth of U.S. weapons, which he described as “essential.” But this deal was also criticized by many, as in South Korea it is widely believed that free trade between the two countries is more favorable towards the United States.
Beak Yong Cham, a 60-year-old Trump supporter, believes strongly that “I’m not very worried about Trump putting South Korea in danger. The United States would talk to the South Korean defense minister before anything happens.”
Despite the pro-Trump supporters’ belief, one can only hope for the future of South Koreans. Trump left Seoul for Beijing November 8 before continuing his journey to Vietnam and the Philippines.