Organized Panel Session
Cold War scholarship generally examined US-ROK relations through a lens cut to fit a patron-client modeling of the overall alliance structure. The resulting portrayals as well as actual asymmetries in the balance of power between the two allies have for decades understated and undermined distinctly Korean influences and reciprocal dynamics in the US-ROK military alliance (1953-present). Refocusing to reduce the long-term disproportionate emphasis on US patronage, this panel aims to explore more nuanced fluctuations in the maturation process of the complex alliance. Panelists examine previously unexplored effects of US military policy on Korea and suggest how distinctly Korean forces swayed certain powerful undercurrents of US-ROK relations. Drawing from US military history, political science, Korean history, and international relations, while also incorporating newly available US and Korean sources, this multidisciplinary panel highlights the give-and-take that restructured policy trajectories of both nations during the most tumultuous period of the alliance in the 1960s and 1970s. The broader concept of “militarism” as an underlying factor of Korea’s rapid development is also brought into the foreground.
Panelists examine the following topics: the role of both US and ROK militaries in the modernization of the Korean workforce, a pivotal process in Korea’s “economic miracle”; US crisis management behavior that influenced the ROK decision to pursue nuclear arms; US abortive troop withdrawal of the late-1970s, as it both affirmed US military dominance and empowered Korean agency; South Korea’s Yulgok Project and the development of US-banned weapons, as it challenged US arms policy from the 1970s onwards.