“Guimul” (“The Host”) is a monster movie, and a monster hit, drawing a record audience of 6 million — equivalent to one in eight South Koreans — in its first 11 days. It’s about a child-snatching mutant that rears up into Seoul out of the Han River, spawned by toxic fluid carelessly discharged from — guess where — an American military base.
Harmless fiction? Not quite. The director, Bong Joon-ho, says he based it on an incident in 2000 when a mortician with the United States military was arrested over a discharge of formaldehyde. Though the incident was regrettable, the uproar it created was out of proportion. There was no lasting pollution, much less any monsters.
But the theme rumbles on. The United States is returning 59 military bases to South Korea, which has complained that many have unacceptable soil pollution (Washington says it’s being held to an unfair standard). The allies have been wrangling for two years about who will clean up. ~Aidan Foster-Carter, The New York Times
Does anyone see a pattern in anti-American themes cropping up in the popular culture of allied nations, particularly those where we have large military deployments? In Turkey, people read Metal Storm and cheer the hero as he nukes Washington. In South Korea, people watch Guimul and think, “You know, this is just the sort of thing that happens all the time because of the Americans.” (No, I don’t think they actually believe that U.S. military pollution spawns monsters, although to judge from their modern cinema I wouldn’t rule it out completely.) Now I know it will sound terribly McGovernite (or is it Buchananite?), but perhaps the reason why South Koreans can no longer see the danger in front of their noses in North Korea is because they have become deeply resentful of the presence of U.S. forces there; that seems to me to be one excellent reason to move those forces elsewhere or, better yet, bring them home. Of course, the McCain-Lieberman Party will not approve, so it must be a crazy and extremist idea.