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Korean-American Professor Provides Grounds for Bush Foreign Policy

Korean-American Professor Provides Grounds for Bush Foreign Policy

Posted September. 14, 2005 07:46,   


The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on September 12 that John Yoo (38, photo), a Korean-American law professor of the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), has emerged as a core conservative theorist, offering theoretical grounds to the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration.

Yoo wrote the so-called “torture memo” which says there is no need to apply the Geneva Convention to terrorists when he was working for the U.S. Justice Department from 2001 to 2003. His logic at that time was, “Terrorists are different from general prisoners of war because they are not a country, and they do not conform to international agreements.” The newspaper said that Yoo’s parents played a great part in his becoming a conservative theorist. Both medical doctors, Yoo’s parents were clear conservatives who hated communism and loved former President Ronald Reagan.

Entering Yale Law School after graduating from Harvard University, Yoo joined the “Federalist Society,” a gathering of conservative legal professions, and increased his human network by working as a clerk for conservative legal people, including Justice Clarence Thomas. In the process, he built up a close friendship with conservative elites of the U.S. to the extent that he played tennis with Justice Antonin Scalia, a leading figure of U.S. conservatism.

The prevailing evaluation of him is that he has excellent analytical ability. Justice Thomas said in an interview with the WSJ that Yoo’s understanding of the U.S. Constitution is so good that he and other legal people even joked, “It appears you are participating in the foundation of the U.S.”

However, his opinions are subject to criticism as well. Elsa Arnett, Yoo’s wife and a writer, is one of his critics. She is a daughter of Peter Arnett, a former CNN correspondent who reported from Baghdad during the Gulf War. Students at UCB, with its liberal academic atmosphere, circulated petitions last year stating that Yoo should resign unless he withdraws his theory.

However, the WSJ said that he still maintains his opinions in lectures and writings. He was criticized that he provided the theoretical grounds for the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse. In response, he said, “I find what happened there deplorable,” adding, “The memo is applied only to investigations into terrorists who are considered to actually have terrorism information.”

Jong sik Kong kong@donga.com