South Korea - like Japan - has been under intense pressure from the US to send troops to Iraq. The South Korean government promised in November to send 3,600 troops by June adding to the 400 Korean medics and engineers who are already there. Now their despatch is being delayed, according to a report by ABC Radio Australia News. The announcement of the delay follows the recent publicity about US and UK torture of Iraqi prisoners, the increase in armed resistance in Iraq, the kidnapping of several East Asians in Iraq, including two South Korean missionaries, and the recent election in Korea with large gains for centrist and left-wing parties.
There has been a great deal of protest in South Korea against sending troops to Iraq, with thousands of people on the streets. (See this Green Left Weekly article about protest around Rumsfeld's visit at the end of 2003.) Compare this with Japan, where around half the population opposes sending troops to Iraq and there have been demonstrations of hundreds of people, large by recent Japanese standards, but not enough to rattle Japanese elites. There are already around 1000 Japanese troops in Iraq.