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Why Is The American Flag Flying At Rallies For South Korea’s Impeached President?

REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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South Korean conservatives regularly fly the stars and stripes during anti-impeachment rallies in support of the country’s disgraced president.

Since President Park Geun-hye was impeached in December, her supporters have been taking to the streets to defend her. Park fell from power after allegations that she was involved in an influence-peddling scandal. The Constitutional Court is reviewing her case and will decide the president’s fate later this year.

At rallies in support of the impeached leader, right-wing protesters carry the South Korean flag, but they also march with a seemingly unrelated banner, a star-spangled banner.

A giant American flag was seen at a rally held this past weekend.

In addition to the giant American flag seen in the video, nearby vendors also sold smaller hand-held flags.

Since late October, several million South Koreans have marched through the streets of Seoul almost every weekend demanding that the president be removed from office and locked up for her crimes, but in quite a few cases, there have been many pro-Park protesters just up the road calling for a continuation of the conservative leader’s presidency.

While some observers suggest that pro-Park rallies have peaked with turnouts in the tens of thousands, others argue that at least one million people turned out for the rally this past Saturday.

Many observers may be wondering about the meaning of American flag-sightings at South Korean political events.

In the eyes of many South Korean people, the U.S. not only represents hard-won liberal democracy, but the U.S. is also viewed as a savior that defended them against North Korea.

Many of the people carrying the American standard are older members of society. Some are war veterans.

“I was born during the Korean War. We were so poor and had nothing to eat. It was the US and white people that helped this country in a difficult time to establish a democracy and get richer,” Shin Deuk-jin, 68, told The Korea Herald.

“The U.S. is protecting us. Without the US, North Korea could have unified the two Koreas under communist rule,” Park Min-ho, 72, who fought alongside U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, told reporters, adding that flying the flag highlights the strength of the U.S.-South Korean alliance.

“I am also here to protect this country,” he added.

Many South Korean conservatives perceive the liberals as North Korean sympathizers due to their visible tendency to prefer engagement and negotiation to military action. Some of the individuals carrying American flags also held signs that read, “Kill North Korean sympathizers.” The country’s liberals are also considered less likely to proportionately emphasize the U.S.-South Korean alliance.

“The U.S. is a symbol of liberal democracy and capitalism. We need to learn from it. We are bound in blood,” Oh Min-geun told the Korea Herald. “Anti-protestors are North Korean sympathizers denying the values and seeking to overturn the country.”

Some protesters believe, and are potentially incorrect, that the liberals would call for the removal of U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula and bring an end to plans for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile shield on South Korean soil this year.

The conservative cause in South Korea has been largely ignored by the domestic liberal media, which is anti-Park.

The anti-Park rallies are reportedly fueled by “righteous indignation and disappointment,” and the pro-Park rallies are largely driven by fear, according to South Korean media reports.

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