The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Controversy over Extending South Korean Troop Deployment in Iraq

Posted by vmsalama on November 5, 2007

Just a quick bit of news I received from sources in Seoul, South Korea:

 South Korea‘s Defense Ministry submitted a bill Monday to the National Assembly on extending the country’s troop deployment in Iraq for another year, an official said. The extension plan — which also would downsize South Korea’s deployment by half from the current 1,200 soldiers — is to be referred to the parliament’s defense committee before all lawmakers vote on final approval, said Shim Jung-hee, a parliament official. 

The official name of the Korean troops is “Iraq Peace and Reconstruction Division.” It is also known as Zaytun Division, with “Zaytun” meaning olive, which symbolizes peace, in Arabic. Zaytun Division has been at the center of fierce public disputes between the opponents and the proponents since the very beginning when the Korean government first reviewed dispatching of the troops to Iraq.

The fundamental argument of those who opposed the deployment was that Korea cannot simply send its young people to the deadly country mired in a war triggered by the United States without a clear justification. When the public dissent increased sharply, the government held the deployment and farewell ceremonies unofficially and the troops were secretly sent off to Iraq via Seoul Airport in Seongnam. Students and civic groups opposing the deployment criticized the government and held protests, clashing with the police in front of the airport.  

The Korean government has extended the operation of the Korean troops in Iraq three times thus far, and decided at the security policy meeting at Cheongwadae on October 19 to extend it once again by one year, which would mark the fourth extension. The government cited ROK-US alliance and participation of the Korean companies in Iraqi oil field development and reconstruction as the reasons behind the decision.


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