Every boy, upon learning a new thing, becomes an expert.
If they read The Catcher in the Rye, they are masters of the human condition. When they discover Nietzsche, they become existentialist philosophers. When they find out Richard Gere once stuck a live hamster up his ass, they tell everyone they know. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true [Editor’s note: it’s not], it only matters that they are now an authority on a thing maybe they can impress someone else with. They know all of their friends will marvel at their wisdom, and their status will increase, even if by only a little.
So when Trump learned last month during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping that Korea used to be part of China, I imagine his heart leaped a little. Here was a new thing he just knew none of his friends were aware of! Never mind that he hadn’t verified it for himself. He had been told, after all, by a real world leader! Someone important, just like when his older brother told him about Richard Gere.
Trump is not a boy anymore.
South Korea, since time immemorial, has been a U.S. ally. China has been one since… Well, since never. In fact, we are usually in direct competition with China. The only reason we’re even friendly, it sometimes seems, is that we need China’s help in resolving whatever new mess the leader of North Korea dreams up each week. If Xi told Trump that the South China Sea was wholly owned by China, would he believe that too? For that matter, how impressionable will we find Trump to be in meeting with the leaders of ANY foreign nations? “It’s not so easy,” indeed.
The basis for the claim of Korea having been part of China, so far as I can tell, comes entirely from the perspective of the Chinese. That country’s mythical history, while fascinating, is much like the history of any country: Written by the victors. Dispute from South Korea came swiftly. Cho June-hyuck, a spokesman for South Korea’s foreign ministry, said of the statement:
It’s a clear fact acknowledged by the international community that, for thousands of years in history, Korea has never been part of China.
The Independent reports:
South Korean daily newspaper Korea Joonang Daily said in an editorial: “We are dumbfounded that the leader of 21st-century China made such a ridiculous claim. If Trump really conveyed Xi’s words correctly, it is nothing but a grave challenge to the identity of the Korean people. “
Rah Jong-yil, a former South Korean ambassador to both London and Tokyo, said, “It shows his shocking ignorance of the situation in north-east Asia. That is very disturbing to us.”
“Somebody needs to enlighten Mr Trump about the facts of the region and he should not fall for this sort of silly nationalism from the Chinese,” Rah added.
Trump’s gaffe was so major, in fact, that literally all of the candidates in South Korea’s upcoming presidential election brought it up. The Liberty Korea Party, the Democratic Party of Korea, and the People’s Party all demanded to know the full context of Xi’s claims to Trump and condemned the very idea that he would distort history so undiplomatically. After Trump mistakenly claimed the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson was headed to the Korean peninsula, South Korea’s anger turned not just to Xi, but to America as well.
If Mexico comes knocking, we never heard of California, okay?
Featured image via screen capture.