Majority of S. Koreans not worried about troop shift
Stars and Stripes May 23, 2004
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The majority of South Koreans aren’t worried the upcoming deployment of 3,600 2nd Infantry Division soldiers to Iraq will affect security on the peninsula, a nationwide polling group said Friday.
According to a phone survey of 800 adults throughout South Korea, 55.5 percent said the troop dispatch would not affect their views on security; 43.3 said it caused them more concern. The remainder were undecided.
The poll, conducted by the firm Research and Research, showed a large divide in opinions based on age. The older the respondent, the more likely they were to equate a large U.S. troop presence with security, researchers reported.
Meanwhile, Gen. Leon LaPorte, the U.S. Forces Korea commander, was in Washington on a previously scheduled trip, officials said Friday.
While his full meeting agenda was not available, it was “reasonable to assume” the 2nd Infantry Division dispatch would be high on the list of topics discussed, a USFK spokeswoman said.
Few details of the troop dispatch have been announced, including the sensitive issue of whether soldiers would return to South Korea after what is expected to be a one-year deployment in Iraq. Pentagon officials linked it to the larger global repositioning of U.S. forces, fueling speculation that the 2nd ID shift is permanent.
According to soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, which has been tapped for the deployment, full briefings have not yet been conducted. A military official in South Korea involved in the planning said details were still working their way down the chain of command.
Many soldiers have been vocal about their disappointment in largely being informed about the move via the media, instead of by their command. Privately, several senior officers in South Korea have also expressed surprise at both the decision to send 2nd ID troops and the manner in which the deployment was announced.
Word first broke through South Korean government officials, who said U.S. officials informed them of the decision early this week. Overnight after the South Korean announcement, the Pentagon confirmed the plan.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, stung by accusations the decision was made without input from the South Korean government, has called on the public to view the dispatch “calmly,” saying it had long been anticipated and was done only after consultations between both governments.