Even before President Trump arrived Monday night at Osan Airbase in South Korea for the second stop on his five-nation tour of East Asia, thousands of Koreans fearing another war had flooded the streets in eight Korean cities to tell the militaristic president to go home.
The unpopular leader may have gotten the message: In his first public remarks in Seoul, Trump made sure to emphasize his interest in negotiating an agreement with Kim Jong-un over his nuclear-weapons program. “It makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and make a deal that is good for the people of North Korea and for the world,” Trump declared at a news conference. “I do see certain movement.”
Koreans, however, see movement toward war. The protests peaked over the weekend in Seoul, where a coalition of antiwar, trade-union, and civil-society groups organized a “No Trump, No War National Rally” that ended with a march to the US embassy. They demanded that Trump stop his war threats against the North and end the massive military exercises the Pentagon holds with South Korea twice a year.
“We’re opposed to this visit to South Korea by Trump, who is inciting a crisis of war on the Korean Peninsula,” members of the coalition declared in a press conference Saturday in front of the embassy. “I hope that American citizens pay attention to what’s happening here,” Kim Hyun-a, a teacher attending the protest with her students, told The Washington Post. “War brings tragedy.”
Hundreds more were in the streets when Trump arrived. But the antiwar demonstrators—who vastly outnumbered a crowd of right-wing, pro-Trump Koreans the Post felt compelled to highlight—were met by the largest mobilization of police since President Moon Jae-in came to power last May (during the visit, most anti-Trump actions were banned, and the huge police presence could be seen live on CNN and other networks broadcasting from Seoul).