Former enemies can live in peace

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Former enemies can live in peace

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“They are here at last,” I thought when I heard the news that the surviving “enemies” visited a cemetery in Paju, Gyeonggi, on July 9, where 362 Communist Chinese soldiers and 718 North Korean soldiers are buried. The Korea-China Cultural Association and Gyeonggi province had invited three Chinese veterans who fought in the Korean War. The painful memories of the war must have been so deep when the former soldiers visited the graves of their fellow soldiers for the first time - ahead of the 60th anniversary of the armistice agreement on July 18.

The cemetery reminded me of cemeteries I had seen in Luxembourg, which also participated in the Korean War. In the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in the capital of Luxembourg City, about 5,000 American service members who were killed in the Battle of the Bulge between December 1944 and January 1945 are buried. The grave of Gen. George S. Patton, famous for his tank corps, can also be found here. About 1.5 kilometers (.93 miles) from the American cemetery is the Sandweiler German War Cemetery, where more than 10,000 German soldiers are buried. The well-maintained cemeteries illustrate the art of international politics the small European nation has pursued.

For a small country with a population of 520,000 and an area of 2,500 square kilometers, powerful neighbors must have felt like nightmares. Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Luxembourg during World War II and set up its Western Front command there. Instead of being trapped in despair, however, the people of Luxembourg turned their geographical disadvantage into an opportunity. Their tool was international alliances. After World War II, Luxembourg took the initiative to pursue peaceful prosperity and coexistence. The country became a founding member of NATO, the European Economic Community and the European Union. Powerful neighbors became friends that provided opportunities. According to the International Monetary Fund, Luxembourg is the wealthiest small power in the world, with a per capita national income of $115,809.

In Normandy, France, where the Normandy landings took place on June 6, 1944, cemeteries for American, British, Polish and German war dead can be found. Every year on D-Day, representatives from those countries gather here. With their former enemies, they pledge to not repeat such a tragic war and to seek a future of coexistence.

Likewise, we need to invite the Chinese who participated in the Korean War to such events to offer the opportunity to seek a constructive future. The cemetery in Paju can be like the Luxembourg and Normandy cemeteries in Korea. Another possible site is Yangpyeong, where Korean forces fought against Chinese troops in the Battle of Jipyeongri and the Battle of Yongmunsan. Making a pledge for peace and coexistence, we need to remind ourselves that China poses a challenge and an opportunity at the same time.

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

by CHAE IN-TAEK
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