Professor’s New Book Explores the Deteriorating Alliance between the United States and South Korea

March 11, 2013
Cover Artwork by Esther Im '12

Wellesley, Mass., March 11, 2013 -- When the military alliance between the United States and South Korea began to deteriorate in the 2000’s, many commentators blamed anti-Americanism and nationalism, especially among younger South Koreans. A new book by Katharine H.S. Moon, Professor of Asian Studies and Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College, challenges those assumptions.

“It’s easy to blame nationalism or generation gaps for issues that arise between countries when there’s a change in the relationship. It was especially easy to do so at a time when much of the rest world was expressing anti-US sentiment over the invasion of and war in Iraq,” Moon said. “Others jumped on the bandwagon, and assumptions became truth by default.”

Moon’s book, Protesting America: Democracy and the U.S. Korea Alliance (University of California Press, 2013), explores the idea that Korean activism around U.S. relations is more a result of transformations in domestic politics, including the decentralization of government, the diversification of civil society organizations, and the trans-nationalization of social movements.

“There is a trend toward transnationalism in social movements. Information, tactics and mottos are shared quickly,” Moon said. “Movements worldwide take on the same kind of signs, symbols, and slogans, yet the alliance relationship can only be handled bilaterally. There’s a disconnect between the two-way exchange between the U.S. and host governments and the multilateral exchange in activism.”

Protesting America offers insights on policy changes to improve the alliance between the United States and Korea, and a comparative analysis of U.S. relations with other host countries. Political scientist Peter Katzenstein of Cornell University praised the book saying, “Protesting America analyzes the coming of age of a democratic public vigorously making its voice heard on questions of foreign policy.”  

Chung-in Moon of South Korea’s prestigious Yonsei University, called the book “a superb and fascinating alternative analysis of how democracy, civil-society activism, and local empowerment have influenced anti-Americanism in South Korea,” and “a must-read for students of South Korean and Asian politics as well as American foreign policy.”

Moon, formerly a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., received a Fulbright Award to conduct research for this book. She is an expert on the U.S.-Korea alliance and social movements in Korea and Asia. Wellesley College, the preeminent liberal arts college for women, has over 350 Faculty Experts available for comment on topics ranging from neuroscience to robotics to the economy; find them at

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