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[Editorial] The Korean War Revisited

Posted June. 24, 2008 03:12,   


On June 25, 1950, the North Korean army invaded South Korean territory by crossing the 38th Parallel. When the roar of tanks and sounds of bombs broke the early silence of a peaceful Sunday morning, a third of South Korean soldiers were off duty. The near defenseless government under then President Rhee Syng-man remained disorganized, while North Korean forces occupied Seoul in three days and advanced to the Nakdong River in a month.

South Korea was saved thanks to U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, who, as United Nations commander-in-chief for Korea, directed the famous Incheon landing. Otherwise the Republic of Korea would have been erased from the world map. The Korean War was the worst catastrophe in the history of the Korean Peninsula, with one million dead or wounded and 10 million separated from their families. About 200,000 Korean and U.N. soldiers and 2,000 student soldiers died in battle. Thanks to help from 20 nations (besides South Korea), especially the United States, we recovered our land and overcame the ruins of the war to develop into a major economy ranked in the world’s top 20 based on liberal democracy and market economics.

According to a poll of 1,016 middle and high school students in Korea, 43 percent did not know what year the war broke out. Only 49 percent knew that North Korea invaded South Korea. More shocking was that 28.4 percent picked the United States as the greatest threat to national security, followed by Japan (27.7 percent) and North Korea (24.5 percent). Adults should share the blame for why children are so ignorant about the war but are well informed about the candlelight vigils this year. Students view the United States as a threat despite the sacrifice of 33,000 U.S. soldiers to save South Korea.

June is also Remembrance Month, a time when the patriotism of fallen soldiers is marked and praised. June this year, however, is covered by a distorted situation. The heart of Seoul is filled with a self-destructive collective behavior shaking the basis of our society and expressing anti-U.S. hatred. The Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union has blasted the comic “Spreading Correct Knowledge of the Korean War,” which the Korean Veterans Association has produced and distributed free to students. The union has blasted the comic for being from the Cold War period and idolizing MacArthur and U.S. forces.

There is no guarantee that another Korean War will not break out again. The people of the post-war generation who directly experienced the war or heard many stories from the war generation have a duty to properly teach our descendants about the conflict and the lessons learned.