My trip to South Korea revealed a country thriving but dependent on America

Newt Gingrich
Conservative Opinion

Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker; Chairman of Gingrich 360
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During my eight-day trip to Seoul, the capital of South Korea, I saw a country that is clearly thriving but still reliant on the U.S. for safety and freedom. South Korea’s success is especially dramatic when compared to North Korea.

Seoul is an enormous city. It’s a very modern city. It’s a very prosperous city. They’ve really worked very hard to build up their economy.

And in fact, if you look at a map of the world at night, you can see literally where the 38th parallel is because north of it, there are almost no lights. South of it, the whole country’s lit up.

Now, what makes it doubly interesting is, not only do they have more lights in the south, they have more trees because where the north is so desperately poor, where people keep cutting down trees for firewood, in the south, they now have had a huge reforestation project and have done an amazing job of bringing back the country and, and, turning even within a mile of Seoul, there are forests, there are walking paths, there are lakes, you see people out enjoying life. 

Beyond the borders, the South Koreans are very aware of China, which is far and away their biggest customer. They’re also very aware of Japan, which occupied Korea from 1905 to 1945, in what was a very nasty occupation involving a good bit of brutality. They see themselves balancing China, Japan and the United States to maintain their freedom and their safety.

And they would be extraordinarily worried if we were to leave because they would be afraid that it would send the signal to North Korea, which is a dictatorship, which has been working very diligently to get nuclear weapons and missiles, and which would be an immediate threat I think to South Korea, if they thought they could get away with it because the north is failing in everything except military power. It’s not a place you’d want to live. It doesn’t have any freedom. It’s not prosperous at all. It’s very, very poor.  

My family ties to the Koreas go back to 1953 when my father fought in the Korean War in the U.S. Army, so it was rewarding for Callista and me to visit and reassess the state of affairs in that region.

I just got back from an eight day trip to Seoul, the capital of South Korea. And it’s very clear when you are with South Koreans and you’re looking just a few miles north to the 38th parallel that America’s commitment to protect South Korea, to work with the South Koreans who themselves have a very strong military to make sure that North Korea knows that they can’t successfully attack the south, is really desperately important. 

Seoul is an enormous city. It’s a very modern city. It’s a very prosperous city. They’ve really worked very hard to build up their economy.

And in fact, if you look at a map of the world at night, you can see literally where the 38th parallel is because north of it, there are almost no lights. south of it, the whole country’s lit up.

Now, what makes it doubly interesting is, not only do they have more lights in the south, they have more trees because where the north is so desperately poor, where people keep cutting down trees for firewood, in the south, they now have had a huge reforestation project and have done an amazing job of bringing back the country and, and turning even within a mile of Seoul.

There are forests, there are walking paths, there are lakes, you see people out enjoying life. 

And what I was struck with was: they’re very aware of China. China’s far and away, their biggest customer. They’re very aware of Japan, which after all occupied Korea from 1905 to 1945, in what was a very nasty occupation involving a good bit of brutality. 

But they see themselves ultimately, sort of balancing China, Japan, and the United States to maintain their freedom and their safety.

And they would be extraordinarily worried if we were to leave because they would be afraid that it would send the signal to North Korea, which is a dictatorship, which has been working very diligently to get nuclear weapons and missiles, and which would be an immediate threat I think to South Korea, if they thought they could get away with it because the north is failing in everything except military power. It’s not a place you’d want to live. It doesn’t have any freedom. It’s not prosperous at all. It’s very, very poor.  

Unlike the very lively South Korean system, which has newspapers and television and political parties competing and all the things you expect in a modern society, the North is really a medieval kingship, disguised as a communist dictatorship, but it’s a huge difference. 

It was very rewarding for Callista and me to have a chance to go to Korea and to sort of reassess things. 

My family had ties going back to 1953 when my father fought in the Korean War in the U.S. army. So we’ve had a long period of paying attention to and being close to Korea. And I just wanted to report to you on that trip.


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