Due for a coup?
Up front, let me just say that the Rohster has probably learned why he needs to talk nicely about U.S. and South Korean relations for a while, probably until the end of his single term. When all is said and done, Roh doesn't trust China and he knows that South Korea is far better off in the American camp. But just in case I'm wrong and things lurch too far the other way, here's what Nora the Prognosticator says we're in store for.
The military is under intense scrutiny. The recent massacre in the barracks has brought some harsh light onto the military, which probably thinks things are unfair. South Korea's career military officers are a lot like Colonel Jessup, the Jack Nicholson character in "A Few Good Men," and they believe that some of the mama's boy soldiers need to be whipped into fighters if the Republic is going to survive.
If the idealistic leftists who are sprinkled here and there in the Blue House and the National Assembly decide to go after the military as a way of weakening their lingering power, the military will not take it lying down.
The military was probably not too happy with Kim Daejung's election in 1997 (or, for that matter, erstwhile leftist Kim Youngsam's election in 1992), but they saw that they could do business with him. The world did not end for them just because former military brass were no longer in office.
But President Roh Moohyun is a different story. He shoots his mouth off and a bunch of idealist nutjobs who are a little too familiar with the writings of Karl Marx and Bruce Cumings have his ear. It's not always clear that he has a good idea of how bad things would be for South Korea if it were to fall under China's sway.
But the generals and the admirals know this. They face the enemy every day and they have no illusions about the benevolent nature of Beijing or Pyongyang.
And this is why, if Roh ever starts to show any real indications that he is going to disinvite the American guests, or if Washington shows that they can't tolerate the leftists' crap anymore and are going to disinvite themselves, there will be a coup.
The Republic of Korea is a democracy, one that Koreans worked hard for and are proud of, but many, many people in Korea feel its security is being eroded by leftist idealists who have little practical sense of foreign relations in this part of the world.
And that leads some to ask: Is democracy all-important if it leads you to ruin? The generals would certainly see this as a choice between the lesser of two evils, but ultimately they would choose the one that would cause the least security risk, which is a take-over from within rather than a move to the China camp from which they are powerless to leave.
Many military types probably believe that the leftists in the government now are a greater danger to South Korea's security than anyone else. If they see those leftists' dream of a kicking the Yankees out and going on some tirade against Japan, which will surely cause South Korea to fall under China's thumb, they will take action.
That would likely mean a coup.
Roh scares the crap out of them. They fear for their country's future security. And if it appears that Roh is going to dash the Korean-American alliance on the rocks, they will take command of the ship. They will not let that alliance fail, even if that means removing the democratically elected leader from power.
And many South Koreans would support the coup, as long as things return to the regularly scheduled democratic program as soon as possible.
A bunch of people would be up in arms (figuratively, perhaps literally) about the coup, but most would accept it. Outside of Korea, countries like Washington and Tokyo would be wringing their hands, but they'd secretly be happy.
The military is trained to do whatever it takes to protect the Republic of Korea. Even from themselves.
From "A Few Good Men" (to get an idea of the ROK military brass mindset):
Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like "honor," "code," "loyalty." We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.