chapter  17
The Tipping Point: Kwangju, May 1980
Pages 27

The concept of the "tipping point," popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book of the same name, l is drawn from epidemiology and holds that "small changes will have little or no effect on a system until a critical mass is reached. Then a further small change 'tips' the system and a large effect is observed."2 Gladwell applies this idea to the social realm, holding that the '''tipping point' is that magic moment when ideas, trends, and social behaviors cross a critieal threshold and 'take,' causing a tidal wave of far-reaching effect." Such a moment occurred in the Republic of Korea (ROK) twenty-three years ago. The central act in this Korean drama, and the tipping point for the anti-Americanism now so prominently on display in South Korea, was the brutal suppression of a popular uprising in the southwestern city of K wangju in May 1980. The virulent strain of anti-Americanism that infected South Korea as a result of Kwangju has become an epidemie that now threatens the half-century-old U.S.-ROK security relationship.