Ruminating over the meaning of the war and truceRecently, the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affair searched for a girl to help 82-year-old Richard Cadwallader, who participated in the Korean War as a signalman. When he was serving at the U.S. Air Force base in Suwon in the winter of 1953, a girl came asking for medical treatment. The girl had suffered serious burn all over her body, and her life was in danger. Cadwallader arranged emergency treatment and had a helicopter take her to Busan, where she was treated at a burn unit. As Mr. Cadwallader wanted to find out what had happened to the girl he had saved, the MPVA began a search.
The campaign led to Kim Yeon-sun, now 72 years old. On April 1, the girl who suffered burns reunited with the American signalman after 60 years, conveying gratitude for saving her life. The story of Cadwallader and Kim epitomizes the humanitarian love transcending time and space. It also reminds us of the devotion of the UN soldiers who participated in the war to protect democracy and lives in the Republic of Korea, still an unknown and fledging nation at the time of the war.
The year 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement. An armistice agreement which means an agreement to suspend a war temporarily is not a peace treaty of reconciliation of each other. For 60 years since the truce, the Korean Peninsula has maintained a quasi-war state, where a conflict can resume at anytime. However, many citizens seem to have forgotten about the tremendous sacrifices for the nation and consider that liberty and peace were given for free.
Security means protecting safety of the nation from external threats and aggressions. It can also mean domestically safeguarding liberal democracy from North Korea’s attempt to communize the entire peninsula. In a broader sense, national security promotes peace and safety of the citizens and aspires to become a stronger country in the unlimited international competition of pursuing national interests.
In the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement, we need to remember three things. First of all, we must not forget the sacrifice and patriotism of the veterans and men of merits who gave up their lives to safeguard liberty and peace of the country. Also, we need to cherish and pay gratitude to the allies and UN Forces who extended assistance when Korea was in trouble.
Lastly, we should always acknowledge the grim reality in which Korea is the last remaining divided country in the world and never forget the endeavors we made to become a strong, peaceful and prosperous country. The reunion of the American signalman and the girl who suffered burns offers a precious chance to remind all of us of the significance of security and peace today.
The Veterans Ministry is to hold the 60th anniversary ceremony of the Armistice Treaty as a government-level event on July 27. The ministry also plans to create 50,000 jobs for retired servicemen who devoted themselves to protect the nation and to expand citizenship education to help young Koreans build proper values.
Lately, North Korea continues to elevate the level of threat. It reminds us that the agreement made 60 years ago neither established peace nor ended the war but only suspended it temporarily.
Sixty years after the truce, we need to ruminate over the meaning of the war and truce, the importance of allies and patriotism and sacrifice for the nation. When we remember the history of the past and teach the future generation of the lessons of the past, South Korea will become stronger and happier.
Choi Wan-geun, Director of the Seoul Regional Office of Patriots and Veterans Affairs