[TODAY]Passion can’t reverse historyThe early fall weather was balmy. Trees were still covered with green leaves. Red roses, purple chrysanthemums and pink petunias were in full bloom. The coastal port at the end of the city was quiet as if it were a lunch break, and the sky over the island of Wolmi ― which must have been full of smoke from bombs and cannons on that long ago day ― had white clouds floating across it.
One day before the 55th anniversary of the Incheon Landing, the statue of General Douglas MacArthur was surrounded with an atmosphere of peace and coziness and the laughter of strolling tourists.
General MacArthur was standing there confidently, holding binoculars in his right hand, watching the port and Wolmi Island across the park. It seemed like he was saying: “How silly are the people that want to get me down from here? The whole world knows that the North Korean People’s Army invaded South Korea and took over 90 percent of South Korea’s territory instantly. And it is a historical fact that my successful Incheon landing reversed the situation in the war and pushed the North Korean People’s Army back to the North. It is absurd that they try to change all that with anti-U.S. sentiment and nationalistic passion.”
If there were no Incheon landing, it would have been only a matter of time before the North Korean People’s Army broke through the front line along the Nakdong River, pushing the South Korean Army all the way to Busan and unifying Korea under communist rule.
I guess that anti-U.S. and nationalist forces here regret that the chance of unification under communism was ruined by the U.S. intervention in the war. If the United States and UN soldiers had not defended the freedom and democracy of South Korea back then, where would they be and what slogans would they be shouting ―those who attack General MacArthur’s statue shouting that the U.S. general was a warmonger and the chieftain of occupation forces?
Even if there were no post-mortem wishes of the anti-U.S. and nationalist forces, there was actually a high chance that the Incheon landing would not have been carried out, or would have ended in failure even after the decision was made. Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung had a strong hunch that the United States would launch a large-scale landing along the west coast near Incheon and had warned Kim Il Sung to be prepared for that event. However, Kim Il Sung, who depended on the Soviet Union for military armaments and advice on war operations, did not listen to Chairman Mao’s advice. The Soviet military advisors thought that landing along the Incheon shores was not even possible.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States were also against the Incheon landing at first. Their reason was that the difference in high and low tides was too great and the LST, or landing ship tank, could not take the troops to shore because the depth of the water at low tide was less than 50 meters.
However, General MacArthur persuaded the military leaders at the Joint Chiefs of Staff that there was a chance of victory because North Korean strategists would think in the same way. During the Second Punic War (218~201 BC), Hannibal of Carthage marched across the dangerous Pyrenees and the high peaks of the Alps in a severely cold winter to surprise the Roman army and won a lasting victory in the history of wars. This was possible by taking advantage of the Romans’ generally accepted idea that such a strategy would not be possible.
There appear to be two reasons why the anti-U.S. and nationalist forces are gnashing their teeth at and attempting to harm General MacArthur’s legacy. The first is because he advised the United States government that they should participate in the Korean War after inspecting the front line near Suwon on June 29, 1950. The other reason is that after the intervention of Chinese troops in the war, General MacArthur insisted on the use of nuclear bombs on the Korean Peninsula and thus could have “almost” caused a massacre of the Korean people.
It seems that the anti-U.S. and nationalist forces that favor North Korea think that the chance of “unification” under communist rule was frustrated by General MacArthur. It seems, however, that they are unable to see the fact that the free democratic system of South Korea was on the brink of collapse and it was defended by the general’s military leadership. Those people who now live in a free democracy and enjoy the precious fruits of a free democratic system, such as materialistic wealth and freedom, are vigorously criticizing the people who defended that very freedom and democracy for us at a time when we did not have the least form of self-defense, calling them warmongers and murderers who gave orders to kill civilians at Nogeun-ri. Some politicians also make political remarks in tune with that rhythm. I can only say that I am totally embarrassed by this.
We are no longer in the urgent situation that we were in 55 years ago. It is an anti-historic and anti-intellectual distortion of history to attack the U.S. involvement in the Korean War and General MacArthur’s Incheon landing as obstacles to unification, now that we can tell the United States whatever we want to and smile at North Korea at any time. It is like taking a picture of a girl at the beach in a bikini then holding it up high in the streets of Jong-no, claiming that she has offended the customs of our society.
Have any of the countries that were trampled on by conquerors like Alexander the Great, Ghenghis Khan or Napoleon tried to erase their history in a similar fashion?
Historic monuments like the statue of General MacArthur are the assets we have the responsibility to hand down to our descendants.
* The writer is an adviser and senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie