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[Opinion] Serial Numbers

Posted May. 03, 2004 21:38,   


ID number, account number, car number, and all the passwords only you know. As the world becomes more complicated, there are more numbers you have to remember. Those who served in the army have one more number to memorize: their serial number. A SN is the number of a soldier’s own. It is natural for number to be carved on a seal for a long time even after demobilization. The reason that a soldier hangs a dog tag on his neck is to be recognized when he dies in battle by putting it between teeth.

A SN is useful after scores of years have passed. Jeon Yong-il, a POW who came back at the end of last month, could successfully escape to his homeland as his SN was confirmed, although at first, the Ministry of Defense erred in finding his name in its list. The return was possible because he remembered his SN, 0676968, even though he was held captive in North Korea for 50 years. Another POW, Baek Jong-kyu, who came back to his daughter as remains, had made her daughter memorize his SN: 1504895. All the POWs who came back from North memorized their SNs, which were their lifelines.

A few days ago, an identification tag with SN 1125518 was found in Hongchun, Kangwon Province. It was similar to the opening scene of the movie “TaeGukgi,” which deals with finding the remains of the dead during the Korean War. The owner of the number was Corporal Lee Man-cho, who died in battle in Hongchun in December 1950. It was confirmed that he had received the Medal of Honor. There has been his spirit of the death for the country under the ground for 54 years. I couldn’t help hanging my head out of respect.

One hundred and three thousand of the dead during the Korean War do not have their remains. The Defense Ministry started to find the remains, and nine hundred and seventy bodies were found. It means there are many more Corporal Lee Man-chos in every corner of this country. I wonder how they might consider the current situation in Korea. Would they feel relieved at the low possibility of another war? Wouldn’t they worry about their slackened descendants?

Editorial writer Song Moon-hong - songmh@donga.com