The continuing soap opera overthe US “OPCON” in South Korea – US operational control of the Southern military in a shooting war (presumably with the North) – rolls on. Seoul has recently requested another push-back of the date when it would re-assume OPCON from the Americans. This is the second such request, raising the obvious question of whether this should go forward at all. Does it make sense to replace a joint structure with something less joint, when it would still need to function as such in a conflict? Especially now that North Korea is a confirmed nuclear power and recently provoked some of the most severe tensions since 1950? (If you have never heard of this issue and do not know the debate, here is a pretty good place to start).
Back in 2006, the South Korean government first insisted on the reversion of OPCON by 2012; the U.S. agreed. As a sovereign state, the Republic of Korea is fully entitled to such choices, and the decision was marketed as such by the South Korea left, which held the presidency at the time. Korea’s sovereignty was being restored, America’s semi-imperial dominance was being curtailed, and so on. The national security ramifications were generally glossed over; instead the government played to nationalist Korean voters and latent anti-Americanism (thebeef protests would break shortly afterwards). And at the time, during the Sunshine Policy, North Korea seemed reasonably well-behaved. READ MORE