Remember Korean War heroes

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Remember Korean War heroes

My relatives all gathered together at a recent family wedding. Brothers and sisters of my in-laws, who are from Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province in North Korea, also joined. The generation of their parents, who took their children and boarded a ship to evacuate from Hungnam city in December 1950 has already passed away. None of the 1.5 generation of former North Koreans brought up in their hometowns or in refugee camps are here to recall those days.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War truce. The armistice agreement will see its 60th birthday in July. Although we endured the war and overcame poverty, we cannot cheat time.

The generation that survived the war is now slowly disappearing and the memories of the war are also fading. But 60 years is too early to forget.

Let’s look at the World War I, which will commemorate the centennial anniversary next year. The last few remaining survivors died a few years ago, and no one can testify about this war from personal experience. And yet, it is not forgotten history in Europe. In fact, it is remembered vividly at various locations.

On the way to the marble entrance of Waterloo Station in London, we can see the lists of the employees who died during World War I and II while serving their duties there. And similar lists are also found in other stations.

I visited Dulwich College in London last summer. Names of the members of the school who died during the wars are carved on the columns of its auditorium. It was to show its students and parents the history and tradition that its faculty and students had fought for the country.

Such lists are common in most British schools including Eton College, which produced 19 British prime ministers including current leader David Cameron.

And after the Internet era began, the lists have also been posted on Web sites of schools along with lists of famed graduates. It is a culture that finds pride in those youngsters who sacrificed everything to defend the country and the community as much as the outcome of college admission.

The tradition was similar in France. I once traveled in Provence and wondered about the presence of stones marked with crosses at the entrances of all the villages I visited. At first, I thought it was just a simple village sign, but I later learned that they were memorials for the fallen patriots.

The list of fallen soldiers from World War I was carved on one side while the other side had the list of those who died during World War II. I sometimes became emotional because some of the fallen soldiers were so young.

Remembering the fallen in a war is the duty of survivors. No matter how the world changes, we must never stop remembering the people who sacrificed their lives to protect the community. Only then can we have respect for our history and learn lessons from it. It is the best way to remember history and hand down lessons to the next generation.

On April 30, a ceremony took place at Kyungnam High School in Dongdaesin-dong, Busan, to unveil a memorial stone honoring the alumni who served and died during the Korean War. It is created with metal, ground white stone and a rock 237 centimeters (93 inches) wide, 120 centimeters long and 53 centimeters high on which the record of the fallen soldiers was carved.

It was designed by architect Seung H-Sang, a graduate of the school.

“They did not fear death. .?.?. We proudly remember the alumni who died on the battlefields and could not return to their alma mater at Mount Gudeok,” said the writing on the metal wall.

The alumni association of the school confirmed the names of 32 alumni who died during the Korean War by thoroughly researching the alumni bulletins from the 1950s, lists of student soldiers and testimonies of people who also fought in the war.

Some may ask why they waited 60 years to build the memorial stone and clarify the list of the fallen alumni. But it was actually one of the rare cases through which schools carried memorial projects for the fallen soldiers.

They say the best time to act is when you think it’s too late. I have high hopes of seeing a boom in memorial projects at schools, companies and villages as we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the armistice. Family tree records can also be researched and clarified to find fallen members from the Korean War.

And the government must encourage and support civilian efforts for commemoration projects. Furthermore, it can also start a project of its own to remember the forgotten services of the fallen civil servants.

Defending our country is not a job exclusive to the Ministry of National Defense. It is a job for all people who work together during a time of great crisis.

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chae In-taek
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