|U.S. President Donald Trump. Korea Times file|
By Park Si-soo
Korean conservatives are generally pro-U.S. and advocates of a strong Seoul-Washington alliance.
Yet their alliance appears to be cracking following U.S. President Donald Trump's remarks on issues crucial for South Korea. The real estate developer-turned-politician has expressed his interest in trading the blood-forged alliance for an increase in national revenue and appears to favor North Korea over the South.
Last Friday he even made fun of South Korea ― along with Japan and the European Union ― mimicking the Korean accent before his deep-pocketed supporters.
Their sense of humiliation has seen even pro-U.S. conservative politicians speak out to slam Trump. Some lashed out at the president, calling him "empty-headed" or "too inept to figure out what's right and wrong."
"With the 'money is everything' mind of a merchant, Trump seems to be confused about what is his ally and foe," Rep. Cho Kyung-tae of the main opposition Liberty Party of Korea (LPK) said on a radio show Tuesday.
The conservative lawmaker was criticizing Trump for shrugging off the North's recent missile tests and speaking highly of its dictator Kim Jong-un while submitting an exorbitant bill to South Korea in return for keeping U.S. forces on Korean soil.
His most recent oral strike at South Koreans happened on Friday.
"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).
While some say this was "just a joke," many feel uncomfortable with Trump comparing the Seoul-Washington cost-sharing negotiations for United States Forces Korea (USFK) with something as trivial as renting an apartment. Trump critics here say the comment reflected the president's priority for the negotiations: money over Korea's security.
"With such a comment out, can we say the U.S. is on our side?" Rep. Cho said. "Trump should bring his mentality back to a state where he can figure out which country is his foe and ally. His comments unnerve many people here, many of whom now question 'Is the U.S. really the ally of South Korea?'"
Rep. Ha Tae-kyung of the Bareunmirae Party also took a swipe at Trump for his reported ridicule of South Korea in a Korean accent at the fundraising event.
"He is totally empty-headed," Ha said in a meeting with party members.
"He said taking money from South Korea was the easiest thing to do on earth and shrugged off the North's repeated firing of missiles because they don't pose a direct threat to the U.S. … and he even makes fun of U.S. allies, including South Korea."
He called Trump's comments "a serious insult and threat to the South Korea-U.S. alliance and U.S. forces working hard to protect the country."