[VIEWPOINT]Here, June is the cruelest monthMy father, Kim Hae-dong, is pure pro-American and anti-communist. He often calls Americans “Yankees,” but then eventually sides with the United States, saying, “America is a country to be grateful to.” He cannot tolerate communists.
He has a reason to be that way. When the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, he volunteered for military service and was made a second lieutenant in the army when he was 19. He and his younger brother had lost their parents early and lived together from hand to mouth in their adolescence; his sibling also joined the army as a student soldier.
As an infantry platoon leader, my father fought in numerous battles in the front lines, risking his life many times. When our army was retreating under fire and despairing that all was over, the United States joined the war to bring a turning point to our humiliating situation. Although the United States may have had a strategy to establish a bridgehead on the Korean Peninsula, my father says, “No matter what others say, America saved our lives.”
My father sometimes talks about how much he misses a black soldier who saved his life on the battlefield. The soldier went to my exhausted father through a hail of bullets to lead him to a trench, but my father never found out his name or whether he is alive or dead. When the war ended in 1953, my father heard that his younger brother had been killed in action two years before. He was left all alone.
One night when I was young, I saw my father weeping with the record player on. It was probably on a Memorial Day, celebrated here in June as well. June is a heart-aching month for him. He may still hear the voices of his fellow soldiers and his younger brother who died about 50 years ago in his Hwarang Medal he received for his service.
He was not a father to me alone. Although he rarely bought me even a bowl of cheap Chinese noodles when I was a boy, he would give everything he had to needy people and become destitute himself.
When he worked as a public official for a short while, he taught about 20 orphan teenagers at night. He provided them with rice, bought clothes for all of them and took them sightseeing.
He was a taekwondo black-belt holder, and dealt relentlessly with bullies. Although he is now over 70, he can still break bricks with his bare hands, and sweeps the alleys in his apartment complex daily.
Because he risked his life to save the country in his youth, and after the war fought for justice, he is a patriot. But he is now confused about June. The young people’s anti-American slogans are one reason for his confusion. Gatherings to remember the two schoolgirls killed by a U. S. armored car in June last year turned into anti-American demonstrations and became fashionable. It is ironic to my father that all these things happened in June, of all times.
The “Red Devils” made waves at the World Cup last June. Although my father was also one of those who passionately cheered for our soccer team, he seems to feel sad that people forget that June is a month to remember the patriots and veterans who made sacrifices for our country.
His comrades-in-arms and his younger brother are gradually being forgotten. With a pained expression, he watched a broadcast of the unveiling of a monument a few days ago to the sailors killed in a naval skirmish with North Korea last year.
Another reason for his confusion is the outcome of the independent counsel’s investigation into the cash-for-summit scandal, in which former President Kim Dae-Jung’s administration gave huge amounts of money to North Korea in return for holding the North-South leaders’ meeting. The date of that announcement was June 25, the anniversary of the start of the Korean War. I wonder what my father thought about that.
The painful June our fathers endured should not be forgotten. I remembered that when I saw him last, despite my tendency to forget things other than my own everyday worries.
* The writer is social affairs news editor of the JoonAng Ilbo.
by Kim Seok-hyun