Kim Jeong-ho, a warrant officer of the Underwater Demolition Team of the South Korean Navy, dived into the deep ocean six times in 48 hours during the rescue mission for the Cheonan sinking in 2010. Han Jun-ho, another warrant officer who dived along with Kim, lost his life during the mission. Kim who overcame the sadness of losing a colleague and volunteered several times for overseas deployment to complete missions has been designated as the winner of the 10th award for honorable heroes in uniform established by the Dong-A Ilbo and Channel A.
The work of heroes in uniform involves danger and sacrifice. Kim Dong-sick, the head of the 119 rescue team of the Gwangju fire station in Gyeonggi Province, passed away while attempting to extinguish the recent fire in the logistics center of Coupang. Health professions who have been battling COVID-19 are our proud heroes in uniform.
Even now, day-to-day safety is made possible thanks to heroes in uniform performing their duties. It is embarrassing that South Korean society lacks enough respect and commemoration for them. There should be a societal environment where officials in uniform feel proud of what they do. Those who passed away while on duty should be honored and their family’s grievance should be shared. The names and sacrifices of heroes in uniform should be remembered and treated with respect by the community.
Today marks the 71st anniversary of the Korean War, which broke out with North Korea’s sudden invasion of the South. It was heroes in uniform who protected the country from the war, which led to much blood over the peninsular for three years. Freedom is not free. Without their sacrifices for the country, the freedom and democracy we enjoy today and the outstanding economic success of South Korea overcoming the devastating war to become one of the top 10 economic powerhouses in the world would not have been possible.
The Korean War is not over. The Korean Peninsula is on ceasefire. North Korea is still aggressive, equipped with nuclear weapons, missiles, and weapons of mass destruction. Rewarding and paying tribute to heroes in uniform who protect the lives and safety of our people is not just the government’s responsibility. Only with people’s respect and gratitude will the country be strong and proud.