Vital memoirs about our pastThe Korean War (1950-53) is a forgotten war. That’s because the public is not familiar with the horrible nature of the war and they were not much interested in it, either. This may stem from a lack of understanding of the historical significance of the war.
From an international perspective, the Korean War heralded the beginning of the Cold War after World War II and the starting point for the modernization of Korea. The war carries such great significance that it should not be forgotten. That explains why the JoongAng Ilbo ran a special series authored by Gen. Paik Sun-yup, 92, with the title “60 years with the military” for almost 14 months.
Through the series, the forgotten war became a war to remember, as it gave us priceless lessons from the old soldier’s graphic memories. In particular, South Korea’s armed forces fled in total panic after North Korea’s surprise attack and the subsequent Chinese intervention. This is a shameful portrait of us that we should never forget.
The image of real soldiers like the World War II hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Gen. James Van Fleet - both of whom General Paik met during the war - and the massive firepower and sophisticated strategies and tactics still represent the essence of the U.S. forces. Just as General Paik said in his memoirs, the U.S. forces were a “shower of civilization” poured on our country, which had just escaped from colonial rule.
His testimony about the period before and after the war also helps deepen our knowledge about our modern history. His vivid memories about two former presidents, Syngman Rhee and Chun Doo Hwan, make us regret efforts to stigmatize both of them as being pro-American.
The series also confirmed that many readers still harbor a secret desire to know more about the war. As the series went on, readers showed a fervent response to General Paik’s words. A countless number of them were eager to meet him in person and an innumerable number of them, both here and abroad, wanted a chance to hear him speak. An avalanche of readers’ inquires about when the second and third volumes of his memoir will be published also poured into our newsroom. In the preface to the first volume of his memoirs, General Paik said, “Those who remember the calamities of war can prevent it because they can prepare for it.”
The war is not over yet. Even today North Korea is threatening us with nuclear weapons. His memoirs have made us reflect on our past and consider our present.