South Korea Table of Contents
One of the most salient elements of the Chun regime was its close ties with the Reagan administration. This was in sharp contrast to the strained Washington-Seoul relationship under presidents Carter and Park, when the United States government had criticized Park's dictatorial policies and attempted to implement Carter's campaign pledge to withdraw United States ground combat troops from South Korea. The relationship also had been strained because of the 1977 Koreagate scandal.
Reagan provided unmitigated support to Chun and to South Korea's security. Chun was Reagan's first official guest in the White House. Reagan reaffirmed his support of Chun by visiting Seoul in November 1983.
While Reagan's support considerably buttressed Chun's stature in domestic politics and the international arena, it also fueled the subculture of anti-Americanism. The opposition forces in South Korea, suffering from the government's stringent suppression, denounced United States' support for the Chun regime as a callous disregard for human rights and questioned the United States' motives in Korea. The past image of the United States as a staunch supporter of democracy in South Korea was replaced with that of defender of its own interests, a policy impervious to injustices committed in South Korea. This view was accentuated by the fact that Chun's White House visit occurred only several months after the Martial Law Command had brutally suppressed the student uprising in Kwangju. (It was later revealed by Richard V. Allen, National Security Advisor to President Reagan, that Chun's visit was part of Washington's diplomatic effort to spare the life of Kim Dae Jung who had been sentenced to death.) This atmosphere led some of South Korea's radical elements to take extreme measures, such as arson committed at the United States Information Service building in Pusan in March 1982 and the occupation of the United States Information Service Library in Seoul in May 1985. Students who demonstrated against the Chun government invariably carried anti-American slogans.
Data as of June 1990