YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — When University of Maryland professor Frank Concilus asked South Korean students in his English class who they would favor in a soccer match between the United States and North Korea, he got an overwhelming answer.
They favored North Korea, 90 percent to 10 percent. A majority of students also favored Russia and Japan in a soccer match with the United States.
“Most of the feelings Koreans are expressing today … are essentially an expression of pride, Korean nationalism,” said Concilus, who also teaches English at Hankook University in Seoul.
Concilus and other University of Maryland professors held a three-hour seminar Friday at the Dragon Hill Lodge centered on U.S.-South Korea relations and the future of North Korea.
From the traffic accident last June that killed two South Korean teenagers to North Korea leader Kim Jong Il, the spirited session aimed to diagnose South Korean thoughts and views.
But while South Korean students may express anti-U.S. policy views, they are able to separate politics from people, although the two may seem intertwined.
Concilus cited an e-mail from one of his students who said a friend had married a U.S. soldier. Many around the couple were concerned an American had become part of the family, but said he’s a real nice guy, Concilus said to laughter from the audience.
The South Korean media has done much to foster anti-American feelings, said Mark Monahan, who teaches Asian studies for the University of Maryland. The major television stations and newspapers proffer distorted, negative views of the United States, which stokes protest groups, he said.
Those groups are augmented by leftist North Korean supporters, who only help North Korea’s desire to see the United States pull its 37,000 servicemembers out of South Korea, Monahan said.
“What Kim Jong Il wants is the United States to get out, and that was his father’s policy,” Monahan said. “I think they are doing extremely well.”
While Monahan believes war is unlikely, North Korea will continue to push nationalistic views aimed at preserving Korea for Koreans and getting rid of foreign influences.
“The situation going on now is really unstable,” Monahan said. “What North Korea wants is South Korea to be self-destructive, and that’s their hope.”