The South Korean media has launched a new wave of nationalism due to some remarks US President Donald Trump made during a media interview. However, the South Korean media has targeted China.
According to these media outlets, Trump noted to the Wall Street Journal that when he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida early this month, Xi told him that "Korea actually used to be a part of China." Almost all the South Korean media have highlighted this point and asked for clarity from China.
But according to the US media, Trump said, "He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you're talking about thousands of years … and many wars […] And after listening for 10 minutes, I realized that it's not so easy," as he was referring to China's pressure on North Korea.
Neither of these is an exact record of the conversation between Trump and Xi during their meeting. Some media explained that there may have been mention that during the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220), four "commanderies" in the northern part of Korea were set up, and during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), the government used to control the kingdom of Goryeo. Trump may have believed that this means Korea "used to be a part of China."
Due to Trump's freewheeling style of speaking and given that all the information was released by Trump, Seoul should go to Washington for an explanation rather than questioning Beijing.
The Korean Peninsula had been intertwined politically, culturally and economically with China in different parts of history. Historians from both sides hold different opinions toward the nature of such a relationship.
South Korea has been particularly sensitive about it and debated fiercely with China in 2003 over the history of Goryeo. China has never wanted to politicize that period of history and showed a goodwill gesture to cool down the debate. The talk between Chinese and US leaders about the Korean Peninsula situation has boosted bilateral cooperation and will shed light on how to address the North Korean nuclear issue. The content of the talks was made public long ago. Seoul, as a non-participant in the talks, should not indulge in a diplomatic confrontation against China over a few words from Trump.
So far, the South Korean foreign ministry has not made an official request, which, if it does, will be disrespectful. But the South Korean media resorted to nationalism, with some claiming this is "a grave challenge to the identity of the Korean people."
History is there, but some South Koreans want to remove any connection their country had with ancient China and request China's absolute respect for their interpretation of history. This is narrow-minded.
Chinese people respect the achievements modern South Korea has gained. Why do the South Koreans lack self-confidence? Meanwhile, "Korea actually used to be a part of China" was said by Trump. Seoul should have the courage to question its ally.