|U.S. President Donald J. Trump responds to a question from the media as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on Aug. 9. President Trump is traveling to his club in Bedminster, New Jersey for vacation. EPA|
By Park Si-soo
Does U.S. President Donald Trump consider South Korea his private ATM, from which he can take any amount of money at any time?
His Friday comment gave many South Koreans the uncomfortable feeling he really thinks that way.
"It was easier to get a billion dollars from South Korea than to get $114.13 from a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn," Trump said at a fundraising event for his reelection campaign in the Hamptons on Friday (local time), according to the New York Post.
He was proudly speaking to the wealthy group of people about how he made South Korea pay more for U.S. forces stationed here.
The newspaper called it a "joke." But few Koreans think so. Instead, they believe the comment reflected Trump's true feelings toward South Korea, at least when it comes to issues related to United States Forces Korea (USFK).
"Trump is a real thug," a netizen wrote. "Our lack of strength needs to be blamed primarily. But it's also disturbing to see the U.S. trying to suck up as much money as possible from a country which it calls an ally."
Another netizen fumed: "Is South Korea your pushover? Go away with USFK."
Criticism primarily targeted Trump. But many netizens blamed President Moon Jae-in for what they called "poor handling" of security and defense issues, which ended up giving Washington an exorbitant edge in the cost-sharing deal with the U.S. for USFK.
Under the cost-sharing deal, known as the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), Seoul agreed to pay 1.04 trillion won ($863.3 million) for 2019, an 8.2 percent increase from 2018. It was valued at $915 million when the deal was signed in February.
Trump has demanded that Seoul pay more in 2020 to cover the expenses of stationing 28,500- U.S. Forces Korea. Last week, Trump tweeted that the talks on renewing the SMA with Seoul had begun and that Korea had agreed to increase its spending.
South Korea's foreign ministry has said the negotiations have yet to open and stressed that the matter would be discussed in a "reasonable and fair" way.
Meanwhile, at Friday's event, Trump repeated that South Korea was a rich nation that "makes great TVs and has a thriving economy," and therefore should shoulder more burden of the cost.
"So why are we paying for their defense? They've got to pay," he said.
He then reportedly made fun of President Moon Jae-in by mimicking his accent as he agreed to his "tough negotiations," the report added, without providing further details.
On his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Trump again said it remained good, mentioning that he had received another "beautiful letter from him this week."
Trump said, "We are friends. People say he only smiles when he sees me. If I hadn't been elected president, we would be in a big fat juicy war with North Korea."