General Paik, our war heroOpposition lawmakers attacked a KBS television program about a war veteran at a hearing on a proposal to hike the subscription fees for the state-run broadcasting network. They questioned the public broadcaster’s fairness by accusing it of glorifying Army Gen. Paik Sun-yup despite his pro-Japanese connection in a special program commemorating the anniversary of the Korean War. The accusation against the war veteran circulated on the Internet and raised an uproar.
Our land was under Japanese colonial rule for over a generation. As a result, a generation of people were born into a tragic era who nevertheless sought education and work to make a living. Among the people fortunate enough to receive higher education, many inevitably had to work in organizations under the Japanese government.
General Paik had been one of them. Despite growing up poor with a widowed mother, Paik had been clever and attended Pyongyang High School to become a teacher. He gave up teaching to re-enter a military academy in Manchukuo and served as an officer in the Manchurian army, which was run by the Japanese. After the end of World War II, he fled to the south and graduated from the Military Language School.
What is indisputable was his leadership in numerous campaigns against North Koreans after the Korean War’s outbreak in 1950. At the age of 32, he became the Army chief of staff. His war accomplishments have been spotlighted in the JoongAng Ilbo’s series on history.
He is inarguably a war hero who staked his life to defend the principles that sustain our country today. He was rightfully highlighted in the television program commemorating the anniversary of the Korean War, aimed at younger Koreans who do not have war experience or the sense of danger of living in one of the world’s most fortified lands.
On Saturday, the city of Paju, Gyeonggi, unveiled a monument near the Imjin River to honor Paik’s war heroics. The plan had been opposed by many who cited Paik’s pro-Japanese career, but Lee In-jae, mayor of Paju, was resolute. He later said that he could not understand the people who would attack our war hero, who is even accredited as such in American history, as antinational and a pro-Japanese figure.
Those who raised the issue at the KBS hearing are also equally reprehensible. The beneficiaries of a peacetime that came from the sacrifices of so many shouldn’t dare utter such disgraceful words against our veterans.