Remembering the Forgotten War: U.S. presence draws mix of opinions
As the station continues its look at the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, YNN's sister station NY1, traveled to Seoul, South Korea where U.S. soldiers talk about their presence in a country that from time to time has mixed feelings about them being there.
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SOUTH KOREA -- In the Myeong Dong section of Seoul, there are so many protests the police just wait for the demonstrators, especially on a day when American military presence was front and center. Recent tensions between North Korea and South Korea are accentuating the issue. The deaths of two women killed by a U.S. military vehicle in 2002 also made things rough for a while.
"Those are short term backlashes. People get emotional when an incident occurs but for the most part we are very well-received here," said Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Buczkowski of the United States Army.
"Honestly I feel they understand there is a military presence here. There's a lot of actually Americans that are here teaching. Very small world. I bumped into a couple of Americans on the train. I was like 'Oh, hi. How are you,'" said U.S. Army Specialist Johnathon Elkaim.
More than two million people a day pass through Myeong Dong, one of the most expensive shopping districts in the whole world. But it's also a popular place for protests, which is why NY1 had no problem finding people with an opinion on whether U.S. troops should even be there.
"I think it is a very positive thing because stationary troops in South Korea bring peace to Asia," said one South Korean.
"Two Korean girls were killed by American soldiers and because of those events people really go against the U.S. troops in Korea. But personally I think they are needed in Korea," said another.
"I think it is necessary at this time. I don't necessarily agree with it but I think we have no other choice because our country is still divided," said a third.
More than 28,000 military personnel are stationed in Korea from every branch of the armed forces. They train alongside their Korean counterparts just in case the worst ever happens. At Yongsan Army base, North Korea is on everybody's mind.
"I'd be lying if I didn't tell you we were watching them closely, but I haven't actually lost any sleep over it," Buczkowski said.
Outside the military base, a statue of General Walton Walker whose rallying cry was "hold the high ground" stands prominently. It's a theme that's sure to resonate should the 8th Army ever be pressed into back into service.