Preventing another warSixty years ago today, North Korea invaded us because they were assured of loopholes in our security. They knew our military power was overwhelmingly inferior - not only in terms of troop numbers but also in military equipment and fire power. Amidst a sharp division between the right and left, our military discipline and civilian sense of security were terribly lacking. Furthermore, the United States had seemingly excluded South Korea from its defensive line in Northeast Asia. Taking advantage of these factors, Kim Il Sung ordered his 110,000 soldiers to invade the South with hundreds of Soviet tanks, declaring, “This war will be over in three days.”
The war left indelible scars. It resulted in more than five million casualties, including civilians, and left hundreds of thousands of people missing in action or turned them into prisoners of war. The war also shattered our economy. With the participation of 16 countries and the subsequent intervention of the Chinese army, the war between nations escalated into an international conflict in which over 40,000 UN soldiers were killed. Though North Korea still distorts the truth by defining the war as one for the “liberation of our fatherland,” we were fighting to protect our freedom.
South and North Korea’s competition for supremacy ended long ago. While we have joined the club of developed countries through industrialization and democratization, North Korea has become a symbol of the failed states still suffering from the worst form of tyranny. It has degenerated into a huge gulag in which millions of people are starving to death in the shadow of the worst-ever form of hereditary rule on earth. If it had not been for the courage and sacrifice of our ancestors - and those of the soldiers from foreign countries - we might have become the slaves of a despotic regime.
The Cheonan disaster has reaffirmed that the Korean War is not yet over. Since the truce agreement in 1953, the North has made more than 200 provocations. The torpedo attack against the Cheonan is only the most recent and serious. Yet the Ministry of Defense and Board of Audit and Inspection are at odds with each other over who should be held accountable, and the military and civilians are bickering over the real cause of the incident. It is deplorable that we face such a sad reality on the 60th anniversary of the war. When it comes to security, there should never be a division between the right and left, or a separation between civilians and the military. The Korean Peninsula is the only divided land saddled with the remnants of the Cold War. Only when we maintain an airtight defense posture, along with seeking peace by easing tensions and building trust, can we prevent another Korean War.