South Korea–United States
relations have been most extensive since 1948, when the
States helped establish capitalism in South Korea and fought on its UN-sponsored
side in the Korean War
During the subsequent four decades, South Korea
experienced tremendous economic
growth, and significantly
reduced US dependency. From Roh Tae-woo's
administration to Roh Moo Hyun's
administration, South Korea sought to establish an American
partnership, which has made the Seoul-Washington relationship subject to some strains.
However, relations between the United States and South Korea have
greatly strengthened under the Lee
administration. At the 2009 G-20 London summit
President Barack Obama
Korea "one of America's closest allies and greatest friends."
In the mid-19th century, Korea closed its borders to Western trade.
In the General Sherman
, Korean forces attacked a U.S. merchant ship sent to
negotiate a trade treaty and killed its crew, after it defied
instructions from Korean officials. A U.S. retribution attack, the
Korea and the U.S. ultimately established trade relations in 1882.
Relations soured again when the U.S. negotiated peace in the
. In 1905, Japan persuaded
the U.S. to accept Korea as part of Japan's sphere of influence, and the U.S. did
not protest when Japan annexed Korea five years later.
Korean nationalists petitioned the U.S. to support their cause at
the Versailles Treaty
under Woodrow Wilson
's principle of
national self-determination, without success.
The U.S. divided Korea after World War
along the 38th parallel
intending it as a temporary measure. However, the breakdown
of negotiations between the United States and People's
Republic of China prevented a reunification.
in both countries maintained
that U.S. Military
forces should remain in
South Korea as long as Seoul wanted them. Not only did 94 percent
of South Koreans (at its highest) support the presence of the
forces, but even the vocal opposition parties
favoured a continued U.S. Military
presence in South Korea. Stability in the peninsula
, they argued, had been maintained
because strong Seoul-Washington military cooperation deterred
Other policymakers felt that American troops should gradually be
leaving the country. They argued that South Korea in the late
1980s was more capable of coping with North Korea which has a far smaller economy.
Washington, meanwhile, an increasing number of United States
politicians advocated troop withdrawal for budgetary
reasons. The consultations on restructuring
the Washington-Seoul security relationship held during Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney
's February 1990 visit to South Korea
marked the beginning of the change in status of U.S. forces - from
a leading to a supporting role in the country's defense.